NCAA championship berths are on the line for the Bruins this weekend.
UCLA track and field will compete in the NCAA West Regional Championship in Sacramento from Thursday to Saturday. Athletes will compete for a chance to join the nation’s best in Austin, Texas, for the NCAA championship.
“I feel ready and prepared for the meet – I know I can jump high so I’m excited,” said redshirt senior pole vaulter Elleyse Garrett. “At this point, everything is muscle memory. I need to rely on what I know, not change anything and keep everything very simple.”
In order to move on from the NCAA West Regionals, athletes must finish among the top 12 in their respective event. The top 12 athletes from the East and West regions will compete in the national championship in Austin beginning June 5.
Redshirt junior heptathlete Christina Chenault has qualified for the championship, and the No. 16-ranked women’s team has five athletes who could potentially join her in Austin, including Garrett, sophomore thrower Alyssa Wilson, redshirt senior thrower Ashlie Blake, sophomore thrower Ilaria Casarotto, and senior sprinter Meleni Rodney.
“Nobody is surprised (by this year’s success). (Director Avery Anderson) is a smart man and he knows how to win; he’s done that at (CSUN) and he’s going to do it at UCLA,” said pole vault coach Anthony Curran. “We knew we could be strong at Pac-12s after watching peoples’ results, and we’re getting results in a lot of areas this year.”
The No. 18-ranked men’s team has eight athletes within qualifying range for the championship, including freshman pole vaulter Sondre Guttormsen, junior thrower Simon Litzell, senior thrower Justin Stafford, redshirt senior thrower Dotun Ogundeji, redshirt sophomore thrower Nate Esparza, freshman thrower Otito Ogbonnia, junior jumper Isaiah Holmes and junior distance runner Robert Brandt.
“I’m very excited for regionals; I’m excited to compete again and see all my friends that will be there and hopefully jump well enough to go to nationals,” Guttormsen said. “I’ve been taking it week by week, progressing and training, and things are starting to get a little bit better.”
Guttormsen has been fighting a lower back injury for most of the outdoor season and did not compete until the Pac-12 championship. Although he only had one practice before the conference championship, Curran said Guttormsen’s performance was impressive.
“(Guttormsen’s) just coming back from being injured for two months, so what he did at Pac-12s was phenomenal,” Curran said. “He’s only had one workout before the meet, he ran a short approach, and still almost made 18 feet. He needs another good session in Sacramento and he should be able to make nationals.”
Guttormsen is currently ranked 20th in the nation and 13th in the West for men’s pole vault. Guttormsen said another two weeks of training and preparation have served him well between the Pac-12 championship and this weekend.
“I haven’t jumped from a full approach yet – I may do that at regionals, but if not I’ll do it after regionals to get it ready for nationals,” Guttormsen said. “It’s hard when you get back from injury because you don’t have the opportunity to taper that you would normally (have), but everything is coming along just in time for the big meets.”