One Bruin heptathlete has the opportunity to one-up her predecessor.
UCLA track and field will send redshirt junior Christina Chenault and sophomore Isa Videler to compete in the 2019 Pac-12 Multi-Events Championships in Tucson, Arizona. Chenault said she is anticipating a breakout weekend for herself after reflecting upon the career path of former teammate-turned-volunteer coach Kendall Gustafson.
“(Gustafson’s) story definitely resonates with mine,” Chenault said. “I’m kind of seeing her progression is very similar to mine. What her personal record was (two years ago), that was my personal record (also), and then I got injured just like how she got injured, and then she had a huge breakout year. So I’m like, ‘Okay, waiting.’”
Gustafson said if Chenault is on top of her game, she could claim the title that eluded Gustafson a year ago. It will, however, require a performance resembling the one Chenault put up at the Bryan Clay Invitational in mid-April, where she set career-bests in the 100-meter hurdles, 800-meter long jump and javelin en route to a first-place finish.
“If she has a good day, she could win, absolutely,” Gustafson said. “In the heptathlon, you can’t really point to one (event) – that’s not how you score high. You score high by just a little bit of progress across the board, and I think she’s in the process of doing that.”
Chenault’s 5,585-point performance at the Bryan Clay Invitational lifted her to 10th on UCLA’s all-time outdoors list for heptathlon and to the 14th best point total in the nation this season.
Chenault, who placed eighth at the 2018 Pac-12 Multi-Events Championships, sits in a multi-event field that graduated three of its top finishers – including Gustafson – a season ago. Chenault said it all comes down to composure in a wide open field.
“Every (Pac-12) is up in the air – it’s ‘Who’s it going to be?’” Chenault said. “I think that’s going to be similar (this year). We’re seeing some similar faces and it’s also interesting to see how far we’ve come since freshman year. … I think the biggest thing in this competition is who can be the most relaxed throughout the seven events.”
Chenault will be competing alongside Washington’s Hannah Rusnak and Colorado’s Michaela Wenning, the only two heptathletes in the Pac-12 to post a higher point total or the same total than Chenault this season. Chenault defeated Rusnak and Wenning at last year’s Pac-12 championship by 138 and 265 points, respectively.
Day one of the heptathlon will start with the 100-meter hurdles and high jump – two events Chenault said she must improve on to have a chance at the title.
“I think the biggest improvements I can make are going to be the first couple events on day one,” Chenault said. “I think especially on day one with my hurdles and high jump, I’m looking to be more relaxed. Having those marks get a little bit better with a cleaner technique, while also maintaining composure, hopefully will put those marks greatly above what I did at (last year’s Pac-12 championship).”
Gustafson said she is counting on the hurdles to be a catalyst in Chenault’s point total.
“I honestly think (Chenault’s) hurdles are in a really great spot right now,” Gustafson said. “She’s been running them really fast lately. … I think that’s going to make a really big difference in her points.”
Videler – a transfer from Missouri State – has dealt with similar injury issues that Gustafson and Chenault both experienced earlier in their UCLA careers. Videler said their multi-event expertise has helped prepare her mentally and physically for her first collegiate heptathlon.
“They’ve been a huge part of the whole process,” Videler said. “(Gustafson) is an amazing athlete and (Chenault) is too. They’re examples of where I want to be at. … They’ve been in the heptathlon longer than I have and have helped me a lot with that.”