After the conclusion of this year’s installment of a
head-to-head against bitter rival USC, it’s time for a well-deserved change of
pace – for most UCLA track and field athletes, at least.
Most of the team will take this bye week as a chance to continue working on their craft without feeling the pressure of a weekend meet. But for the multievent athletes who have been known for pulling off competition in several events in a single meet, this is the week of their conference championship.
This year, however, the Bruin contingent going to the Pac-12 multievents championships will only consist of a women’s team and will have the conspicuous absence of senior decathlete Marcus Nilsson, who placed third in last year’s NCAA championships but has injured an arm and will be redshirting the season.
UCLA’s team of heptathletes competing in the Pac-12 championships will be made up of senior Alexis Walker, junior Katherine Salcido and freshman Monique Van.
For all three heptathletes, going to Pullman, Wash., this Saturday will be the first time each Bruin will compete in the 100-meter hurdles, 200 meters, 800 meters, long jump, high jump, shot put and javelin over a span of two days against a field of other Pac-12 athletes for a chance to officially be crowned the best heptathlete in the conference.
“I’m really excited. In the past I’ve gone to Pac-12s for the high jump and the 400 hurdles, and it’s kinda cool to still be able to go to Pac-12s for those events, but because of the multi, I get an extra chance at another event the week before,” Walker said. “I’ve put in a lot of work, training and effort for this particular event, so I’m pretty excited to go out there and compete.”
The Pac-12 multievents championships will also be the last chance for the heptathletes to improve their rankings before the NCAA preliminaries in Fayetteville, Ark., which only accepts the top 24 ranked athletes in each event from their respective region. This will be especially crucial for Van and Salcido, who are the No. 66 and No. 62 ranked heptathletes in the West, respectively.
As it presently stands, only Walker looks set to qualify, as she is No. 12 in the Western regional standings for heptathletes after posting 5,409 points in the Mt. SAC Relays on April 16, but Walker will still want to perform well in this event to ensure that she maintains a ranking above the 24th-place threshold in the final stretch leading up to the NCAA preliminaries.
At the same time, the Pac-12 multievents championships is also a chance for the heptathletes to represent their school and earn some valuable points and give their teammates a good head start for next week, when the rest of the Bruins head to Pullman for the track and field events portion of the Pac-12 championships.
“We’re ranked pretty well going into it right now,” Walker said. “Hopefully we just get in there and do what we know how to do and do what we’ve been training to do and we should all do pretty well.”
Compiled by Aubrey Yeo, Bruin Sports reporter.