A lightning storm brought the events to a halt, but that didn’t prevent the Bruins from putting up points.
After two days of competition featuring a three-hour long storm delay Saturday, UCLA track and field saw five athletes take home individual titles at the Pac-12 championship in Tuscon, Arizona this weekend.
UCLA and Oregon were knotted at 133 points with four events left, but the Ducks pulled away with 40 more points to claim their 13th consecutive Pac-12 men’s championship.
“We knew chasing a Pac-12 title was going to be a big goal,” said junior distance runner Robert Brandt. “We obviously came up a little short, but I think everyone is happy with the effort we put in. … We were biting our nails until the end there with Oregon pulling away in the last few events of the meet.”
The men’s side of the team accumulated 140 points for second place – the Bruins’ highest point total since 2004 and its highest placing since 2005.
Brandt saw his 10,000-meter race get pushed back from 9:30 p.m. to midnight Saturday. Brandt added 10 points when he crossed a rain-soaked finish line early Sunday morning.
“After about 5 (kilometers), a few of the Colorado guys – (John Dressel and Ryan Forsyth) – started to pick up the pace (and I) just went with them,” Brandt said. “I was feeling pretty good and … about 700 meters to go I put in a strong surge on (Dressel) and got no response from him.”
Brandt’s time of 29:08.11 in the 10,000m made him the Bruins’ first victory in the event since 1982.
Due to a back injury after the NCAA indoor championships, freshman pole vaulter Sondre Guttormsen hadn’t attempted a pole vault in nine weeks and was forced to wait an extra day once the storm pushed the event back to Sunday.
On his first try at 5.12m on Sunday, Guttormsen qualified for the NCAA West Regionals.
“That was kind of what I wanted and hoped for,” Guttormsen said. “I wasn’t sure if I’d have a college season at all. … Even just to be able to compete there was good in itself.”
Guttormsen was the only pole vaulter left jumping with the 5.27m bar, racking up 10 points for the men’s team and a Pac-12 title with a final jump of 5.36 meters.
“After I (jumped the 5.12 bar), I was like ‘Yeah, I think it’s possible to jump some more and try to win it,’” Guttormsen said.
Redshirt senior pole vaulter Elleyse Garrett joined Guttormsen as a Pac-12 champion in the pole vault when she topped 4.36 meters – third place on UCLA’s all-time outdoor record list.
The UCLA throwing unit compiled the most points for the men’s portion of the team. Ten points came from senior thrower Simon Litzell in the javelin with his final attempt of 74.23 meters that recaptured the Pac-12 javelin title. Redshirt senior Dotun Ogundeji led the Bruins in going 2-3-4 in the shot put and tacked on 16 points with two second-place finishes in the shot put and discus.
Sophomore thrower Alyssa Wilson logged 26 of the Bruins’ 55 points – the most by any athlete at the Pac-12 championship. In addition to two second-place finishes in the shot put and hammer throw, Wilson’s first-place discus toss of 56.93 meters gave her the first Pac-12 title of her UCLA career.
“I was crying tears of joy,” Wilson said. “I’ve always been doubted in the discus and have always felt the feeling of having to prove myself and others that I can compete well and excel in all three throwing events that I do.”
Wilson’s performances earned her Female Athlete of the Meet.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Wilson said. “But I’m the type of person that doesn’t like to brag much. I like to stay quiet and let the performances make the noise.”
The Bruins will travel to Sacramento to compete in the NCAA West Regionals hosted from May 23 to May 25.