Old, new athletes in track and field to follow up on successful season debut
Redshirt senior Leon Powell redshirted last season and returns to competition this season. Powell was a US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American Honorable Mention in the 4×100-meter relay in 2017. (Daily Bruin file photo)
January 25, 2019 12:08 am
The Bruins are traveling to New York City after opening their season with 15 top-three finishes.
UCLA track and field will compete in the Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge on Friday and Saturday against a variety of teams from around the nation, including BYU, Duke, Florida State, Oklahoma, Syracuse and Ohio State.
Assistant coach Curtis Allen, who works primarily with sprinters, said he is excited for the coming meet after seeing his athletes complete their 2019 season debuts last week in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Collegiate Invitational.
“We had the No. 4-ranked recruiting class in the country this year, and it’s nice to work with (a larger group),” Allen said. “Everybody’s accountability and work ethic is great. We have a lot of really talented kids that I feel like will really blossom this season.”
UCLA’s sprinters have seen an influx of new talent under Allen and director Avery Anderson, including transfers, like sophomore Josh Pikes from Portland State, junior Harrison Schrage from Arkansas, sophomore Myles Webb and senior Cameron Stone, – both from Oregon – and freshman recruits, such as Chase Wells, Seth Holloway and Kyrah Johnson.
This new talent joins the ranks of veterans such as redshirt senior Leon Powell, who earned All-American Honorable Mention honors in 2017 as a member of UCLA’s 4×100-meter relay team, redshirt senior Joe Herrera, who finished 22nd at NCAA West Regionals in 2018 in the 400-meter dash, and senior Meleni Rodney, who won back-to-back state titles at the College of the Sequoias in the 400-meter dash in 2016 and 2017.
Holloway was the Georgia state champion in the outdoor 100-meter and 200-meter dashes in high school. Holloway said the adjustment to California life has not been too difficult for him to manage, despite the long journey from home.
“I’m adjusting really well. Going across the country was really nothing for me,” Holloway said. “All my teammates have helped me out with the transition; everybody’s really cool, we push each other every day and everybody wants to get to it.”
Johnson was a two-time outdoor Citrus Belt League champion in the 400-meter dash to the fold. she said she is ready to compete on the track again, despite missing nearly two months of training in the fall due to injury.
“At first I was extremely nervous, but once I got the baton everything shut out; it was just me chasing the other team,” Johnson said. “After (the race), I felt really good. Even upperclassmen were really excited with my performance because I was out for two months in the fall so I wasn’t expected to do anything (this early).”
Allen said he is very happy with the work ethic that the two freshmen have demonstrated early into their careers as Bruins.
“(Holloway) is unbelievably talented. He is a hard worker, driven, knowledgeable of the sport, and he wants to be the best,” Allen said. “(Johnson) just gives you everything she’s got, she’s probably one of the hardest working people on our team; at the end of the year, (with) the Pac-12 championships and things like that, she’s going to be a big contributor to the team.”