Tuesday, September 24

Bruin field event performances shine through at Aztec Invitational

Sophomore jumper Mikella Lefebvre-Oatis came away with one of UCLA's 12 top-three finishes this weekend at the 40th annual Aztec Invitational. (Keila Mayberry/Daily Bruin staff)

Sophomore jumper Mikella Lefebvre-Oatis came away with one of UCLA's 12 top-three finishes this weekend at the 40th annual Aztec Invitational. (Keila Mayberry/Daily Bruin staff)

This post was updated March 25 at 3:22 p.m.

Though the Bruins started with a clean slate this weekend, a trend from their indoor season remains.

UCLA track and field opened up its outdoor season in San Diego at the Aztec Invitational, and the field events yielded the most successful contingent of athletes, just as earlier in the year.

The field events racked up 12 top-three finishes over the weekend, including event wins from senior thrower Justin Stafford, junior triple jumper CJ Alumbres and senior heptathlete Kendall Gustafson.

Gustafson carried momentum from her indoor season into the-outdoors and took home a first place finish in the heptathlon with 5691 points – nearly 1000 more than the runner-up.

“(Gustafson) in the heptathlon is kind of considered a field event,” said track and field director Avery Anderson. “I think that was probably the highlight of the meet.”

Stafford took home the win in the hammer throw with a mark of 60.80 meters, half a meter shy of his lifetime best. Stafford entered the meet after finishing no lower than third in a majority of the indoor meets he competed in this year.

“(Stafford’s win) is not something we didn’t see coming. He’s been training really well,” Anderson said. “It’s not a surprise, but it is great to see because it doesn’t always go hand-in-hand that your practices translate to the meet.”

The rest of the field team’s top finishers included third-place finishes from pole vaulters Reed Scale, Michael Fancey and Greta Wagner.

“I think it was a good transition into where I need to be,” Wagner said. “I need to get my longer approach, I was only on a short stride so I didn’t jump as high because I wasn’t on my full approach.”

Senior Elleyse Garrett also competed in the pole vault and took home a first place finish with a vault of 3.92 meters. The senior competed unattached, however.

In addition to the pole vaulters, sophomore Mikella Lefebvre-Oatis and senior Kaelin Davis both finished in the top three in the women’s high jump, coming in second and third with leaps of 1.71 and 1.66 meters, respectively.

Just as they did throughout the indoor season, freshman Alyssa Wilson and sophomore Ashlie Blake also finished inside the top three. Wilson placed second and third in the hammer throw and discus with throws of 60.57 meters and 53.9 meters, respectively, while Wilson took home a third-place finish in the shot put.

Though the meet wasn’t scored, the field events carried the team yet again, accounting for nearly all of the team’s top finishes.

On track, the women had one top-three finish. Senior sprinter Jelvon Butler earned second place in the women’s 200 meters with a time of 23.79 seconds.

“I’m really happy about it,” Butler said. “I ran a lifetime best. It was nice that I got to open the season with a really good time. I’m just excited to see what I can do.”

It was not all top-threes for the Bruins, however. The men’s team was unable to crack the top 10 in the sprints or the distance events.

Sophomore Tyler Janes and junior Cole Smith came closest, with 11th-place finishes in the 800- and 1500-meter races, respectively.

“It’s a matter of a couple of things. One, the squad we were handed is a little thin,” Anderson said of the slow start on the men’s side. “But then in addition to that we have some things that I don’t want to call injuries that we are still being a little cautious of. … You don’t want to push the envelope when you don’t have a lot of bodies.”

The Bruins have a week until the Bob Larsen and Jim Bush invitationals – their first two home meets of the year.

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Assistant Sports editor

Yekikian is an assistant Sports editor. He was previously a Sports reporter for the women's volleyball and track and field beats.

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