UCLA track and field brought home 13 top-five finishes across two meets this weekend.
The Bruins competed at both the Don Kirby Collegiate Elite Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as well as the Husky Classic in Seattle on Friday and Saturday.
Only distance runners were sent to represent UCLA in Seattle against a field that was a mix of postcollegiate and collegiate athletes. Competition was consolidated by the event organizers to Friday due to snowstorms.
Junior Robert Brandt led the Bruin athletes with a third-place finish in the men’s 5,000-meter. Redshirt junior Colin Burke and sophomore Christina Rice placed 17th and 26th in the men’s and women’s 5,000-meter to move into sixth and third on UCLA’s indoor top-10 leaderboards, respectively.
Freshman pole vaulter Sondre Guttormsen earned first place and set new personal, school and Norwegian records again with his performance in New Mexico.
“It was a regular meet, but I went there and I was feeling good,” Guttormsen said. “I was hoping to get good results and I did, so that gives me a lot of confidence going into the more championship season with MPSF, (European championships) and (the NCAA championships).”
Sophomore thrower Alyssa Wilson added another first-place finish, this time in the weight throw. Wilson has earned six first-place finishes so far this season across the four women’s weight throw and shot put events, also picking up one third-place and one fifth-place finish.
Redshirt senior thrower Dotun Ogundeji and redshirt sophomore thrower Nate Esparza finished first and second, respectively, in the men’s shot put – while senior thrower Justin Stafford earned second in the men’s weight throw. In the men’s high jump, senior Michael Burke and freshman Sean Lee tied with a mark of 2.31 meters to finish. Burke was awarded second place over Lee on account of attempts.
“I thought it was a good showing. I was able to run my approach in a smooth manner,” Lee said. “I’ve been battling irritation in my lower back, upper glute. But this weekend I was able to jump with no irritation, which is a positive sign.”
For the track athletes, senior Cameron Stone earned fourth in the men’s 400-meter dash with a time of 47.77 seconds, while senior Suzie Acolatse finished fifth in the women’s 60-meter dash with a time of 7.49 seconds.
“It wasn’t what I wanted, but it’s progress so I’m happy with the performance,” Stone said. “Training has been going well. The race was just another learning experience so I’m not too worried.”
The team has two more meets – the Last Chance College Elite Meet and the MPSF indoor championships – for individual athletes to achieve a top-16 mark in their events to qualify for the NCAA championships.
The Bruins currently have five athletes – Brandt, Guttormsen, Ogundeji, Wilson and Blake – who are sitting in qualifying spots for six events, while another six Bruins are within 10 spots of qualifying.
“As far as (the MPSF championships), I’m just going to look to improve,” Stone said. “I’m going to look to improve and if I happen to reach that top-16 I’ll be happy, but I know that I’ll PR a lot in outdoors so we’re just going to focus on training hard.”