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Individuals shine amid top-10 team finishes for men’s and women’s track and field

Junior Robert Brandt, who runs both cross country and for the UCLA track and field team, made his return to the 3000-meter run in New York City. Brandt placed first among 39 runners. (Courtesy of Ricky Bassman)

By Vinny Lavalsiti

Jan. 28, 2019 12:05 a.m.

Sondre Guttormsen entered this season with high expectations.

The freshman pole vaulter was a high school state champion in the event and set a Norwegian record of 5.75 meters at the 2018 European Athletics Championships.

Guttormsen needed just one meet to join the ranks of UCLA’s greatest pole vaulters as his 5.71-meter vault Saturday put him atop the UCLA indoor pole vault record list.

UCLA track and field’s trip to New York City to compete in the Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge yielded top-10 finishes for both the men’s and women’s teams, which placed third and eighth, respectively.

“(Guttormsen) is very competitive and dialed into what he is doing,” said track and field director Avery Anderson said. “Achieving your country’s national record indoors – that’s a big deal. He is not going to let off the gas pedal. … He knows that the stakes are high in the event he’s in, and there are few guys around the country at or beyond where he is.”

Guttormsen paced the floor with his hands behind his head and smiled ear-to-ear after landing onto the mat.

“This was my first (meet) for UCLA and I knew that everyone was expecting a lot out of me because of all (my past) performances,” Guttormsen said. “I was a little bit nervous – … I think that was one of the reasons why I do so well.”

Redshirt senior Elleyse Garrett and freshman Tate Curran – son of pole vault coach Anthony Curran – joined Guttormsen with top-five finishes.

Guttormsen said it was fun to see Garrett set a new personal record of 4.20 meters with her second-place finish, putting her at eighth on UCLA’s indoor pole vault record list.

Sophomore Alyssa Wilson and senior Justin Stafford notched their third consecutive wins in their respective events, the shot put and the hammer throw.

“(Stafford) has done a really good job on the season,” said redshirt senior Dotun Ogundeji, Stafford’s roommate. “I’m really proud of how he’s progressed throughout the year. … It’s where he wanted to be at (but) he knows he can go for more.”

Ogundeji placed second in the shot put with a season-best mark of 19.07 meters.

Redshirt senior thrower Ashlie Blake followed up Wilson’s first-place finish in the shot put with a toss of 16.89 meters.

The Bruins’ track athletes recorded 12 top-10 finishes, including one by junior Robert Brandt in his return to the 3000-meter run. Brandt placed first among 39 runners and broke the eight-minute barrier with a time of 7:59.11. Brandt’s time was the fourth-fastest in UCLA history.

Anderson said track events provide distance runners like Brandt more ideal competition conditions, whereas cross country lacks the pressure from being side-by-side to opponents.

“What I saw from (Brandt) bodes well for him being able to get out and compete,” Anderson said. “Not having to run by himself in a race and having some competition is better for his specific event.”

UCLA will travel back to Albuquerque, New Mexico to compete in the New Mexico Collegiate Classic on Feb. 1-2. The Bruins kicked their season off with 15 top-three finishes in Albuquerque just one week ago.

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Vinny Lavalsiti | Alumnus
Lavalsiti joined the Bruin as a junior transfer in 2018 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He spent time on the softball, women's basketball, cross country and track & field beats.
Lavalsiti joined the Bruin as a junior transfer in 2018 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He spent time on the softball, women's basketball, cross country and track & field beats.
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