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Seven is lucky number as track athlete shines in heptathlon

Senior heptathlete Kendall Gustafson was able to advance to the national championship meet after coming in second in the Pac-12 multis this weekend. (Michael Zshornack/Photo editor)

By Matthew Kenney

May 6, 2018 10:58 pm

Two UCLA track and field athletes took center stage at the first postseason meet of the year – seven times each.

Senior Kendall Gustafson and redshirt sophomore Christina Chenault both competed at the Pac-12 multis this weekend in the heptathlon, a competition that consists of seven events. Gustafson finished second overall and booked a ticket to the NCAA championship with a personal best score of 5,886 points, while Chenault finished eighth with 5,072 points, not enough to make the cut.

Competing in her second full heptathlon since the beginning of the outdoor season, Gustafson won three individual events and set two new personal bests on her way to the sixth-highest women’s heptathlon score in the nation.

Gustafson dominated the throwing events, taking first in both the shot put and javelin throw. Her mark in the javelin beat the next highest finisher by nearly five meters.

Gustafson said the throwing events have always been among her strongest.

“Throws are something that come a bit more naturally to me than some of the other girls,” Gustafson said. “I consider myself pretty strong, and now that I know that throws are my strength, I just want to keep working on them.”

Gustafson added another win in the high jump, where she cleared 1.80 meters for the first time in her career.

“I was really happy with where my high jump ended up,“ Gustafson said. “That was probably the most exciting event for me.”

Out of the three running events, Gustafson’s strongest performance came in the 100-meter hurdles, where she took third overall and ran to a personal best of 14.08 seconds.

In total, Gustafson beat her previous heptathlon record from earlier this season by 195 points. She also improved her marks from that performance in six of seven events.

Competing alongside Gustafson was Chenault, who returned from injury this weekend.

Chenault took home three top-five finishes, in the high jump, shot put and 800 meter, on her way to eighth place overall, a drop from her fourth-place finish at last year’s Pac-12 multis.

However, Chenault said that her return to the track was a bit overwhelming at times, and it showed in her performance.

“I was very anxious to be back out there on the track,” Chenault said. “But it was cool to be out there with (Gustafson), to have a teammate out there to support me and calm me down.”

Gustafson said that she was thrilled to compete alongside Chenault again.

“It’s like my favorite thing to do,” Gustafson said. “It’s so much more fun to have someone there with you. … I know her strengths, I know her weaknesses, and we push each other the entire time.”

The next time Gustafson competes in the heptathlon, she will be alone on the national stage.

“I want to put points on the board for UCLA,” Gustafson said of her goals for the upcoming meet. “That’s really the main goal. A more personal goal is to score over 6,000 points. I think with a couple more weeks of training and getting everything together, that’s a real possibility.”

The rest of the Bruins will now head to the Pac-12 championship this weekend, which will determine who joins Gustafson moving forward and whose season is over.

Gustafson and Chenault also both plan to compete again this weekend. However, according to Gustafson, they will be sticking to just two or three events this time around.

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Matthew Kenney | Sports staff
Kenney is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball beat. He was previously a contributor on the baseball, men's soccer, women's soccer, track and field and cross country beats.
Kenney is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball beat. He was previously a contributor on the baseball, men's soccer, women's soccer, track and field and cross country beats.
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