Monday, May 25

Track and field concludes MPSF Indoor Championships with five qualifiers

Redshirt freshman shot putter Nate Esparza qualified for his first ever trip to the indoor national championships this year. (Keila Mayberry/Daily Bruin staff)

Last weekend’s MPSF Indoor Championships marked the second to last meet of the indoor track and field season. And though some Bruins will compete at nationals, many Bruins came close without quite making the mark.

Despite several Bruins standing atop a podium when the events at the MPSF championship meet were over, NCAA rules stipulate that only the top 16 athletes from across the nation in each event will qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships.

According to, a total of just five Bruins – two on the men’s team and three on the women’s team – have marks that qualify them for nationals.

Though the results are yet to be finalized, the list of official competitors at the NCAA Indoor Championships will only change if one of the athletes in the top 16 declines to participate in the meet because of injury or another extenuating circumstance.

Senior Jessie Maduka recently set the UCLA all-time record in the indoor triple jump in January with a leap of 13.73 meters. The mark currently puts her at fourth in the nation – the highest ranking of any Bruin.

She is accompanied by redshirt junior thrower Ashlie Blake and freshman thrower Alyssa Wilson who sit 9th and 10th in the women’s shot put standings, respectively.

As for the men, the two shot putters who qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships are redshirt freshman Nate Esparza and junior Dotun Ogundeji. The duo of throwers currently sit at 12th and 14th in the national rankings, respectively.

This should come as a surprise to no one, as UCLA’s throwers have been leading the way for the team all year long.

“First indoor season my goal was to make it to NCAAs and to throw an average of 19 meters … and every indoor meet I’ve thrown over 19,” Esparza said. “To have accomplished both of those, especially when I’ve never thrown indoors in my life, was really exciting.”

Though UCLA has five athletes headed to College Station, Texas, to compete in the final meet of the season, there are a number of top Bruin performers on the team who missed the mark for nationals.

Sophomore jumper Isaiah Holmes and senior pentathlete Kendall Gustafson are two examples of Bruins who are just shy of the top 16. Both athletes took home first-place finishes over the weekend at the MPSF meet. Gustafson even put up a season-best mark, but both still failed to qualify.

At 19th in the country, Gustafson will miss out on the championship by just three places with 4,084 points as her best performance of the year.

“My main goal was to make nationals … which I am a little bummed about,” Gustafson said. “It makes (the season) a little bittersweet.”

Just 37 points separate Gustafson and the 16th place pentathlete in the country.

As for Holmes, he currently owns the 26th long jump spot in the country with his mark of 7.71 meters.

The lowest qualifying mark for the championship meet is a three-way tie and sits at 7.81 meters, meaning Holmes finished within spitting distance of qualifying for nationals.

“It was a big confidence booster for coming into outdoors,” Holmes said of his MPSF meet performance. “It was just a really big bummer not to make it to nationals.”

Last year Holmes finished 57th in the national rankings and Gustafson finished 27th in the pentathlon. Her score of 4,084 this year would have qualified her in 2017, however.

Yekikian joined the Bruin as a junior transfer in 2016 and contributed until he graduated in 2018. He was an assistant Sports editor for the 2017-2018 academic year and spent time on the softball, men's soccer, women's volleyball, track and field, cross country and rowing beats.

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