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Track and field rely on last two meets to qualify for NCAA indoor championships

(Keila Mayberry/Daily Bruin staff)

By Vinny Lavalsiti

February 17, 2019 2:59 pm

The Bruins are running out of time.

UCLA track and field will send six athletes to compete in two events at the Last Chance College Elite Meet in Seattle on Friday. UCLA has two meets left to qualify for the NCAA indoor championships to improve its ninth-place standing in the distance medley relay.

Distance runners junior Carter Blunt, junior Riley Kelly and redshirt junior Arturo Sotomayor, and senior transfer sprinter Cameron Stone will be vying for a top-12 qualifying mark in the DMR.

Stone – running the 400-meter leg – said the DMR crew will seek to improve on its time of 9 minutes, 44.61 seconds set at the Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge in New York.

“It was some people’s first meets and whatnot and (we needed to) get the rust off,” Stone said. “I’m sure everybody is in a lot better shape and (is more) race ready than we were about three weeks ago in New York. We’ll drop a considerable amount of time, so I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of pressure on us.”

Stone is the only member of the DMR quartet to have experience at the indoor championships, participating in the 400-meter leg and claiming a third-place finish for Oregon last season.

Men’s distance coach Devin Elizondo said the recent individual performances of the DMR quartet leave him hopeful for Friday.

“(Stone) kind of has that championship pedigree that we’re looking for and enjoy,” Elizondo said. “Having him in the middle gives you a powerful punch there. If he can do what he does (regularly), that just helps the whole team.”

Kelly ­­– running the 800-meter leg ­– posted a personal record in the indoor 800-meter with a time of 1:49.99 at the Husky Classic on Feb. 8, good for a fourth-place finish. Sotomayor and Blunt set season-best times in the mile with times of 4:06.36 and 4:07.15, respectively.

Sotomayor opened with the 1200-meter leg and Blunt was the anchor in the 1600-meter leg in the DMR at the Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge. The two will be switching roles Friday.

On the outside looking in are sophomore Tate Curran and redshirt senior Elleyse Garrett of the pole vaulting squad. Curran and Garrett are sitting at 20th and 21st respectively and both need to jump a few extra inches to qualify for the top 16.

Curran said the two walking away with top-16 marks Friday – joining freshman Sondre Guttormsen – is a goal for the pole vaulting crew and would be a fulfilling end to Garrett’s career.

“It would be absolutely amazing for (Garrett and I to end the weekend in the top-16),” Curran said. “I want nothing else more in the world than for (Garrett) to make it. She’s a fifth-year senior. She’s a walk-on at UCLA. Making it to nationals would just be the coolest thing (for her.) … To be able to go with two other vaulter teammates would be something that I don’t think a lot of people do.”

Curran’s personal record of 5.33 meters at the Don Kirby Collegiate Elite Invitational on Feb. 8 left him roughly 3 1/2 inches short of tying the 16th best pole vaulter in the NCAA.

Curran said meeting that mark is within touching distance.

“I’ve seen it too many times,” Curran said. “Right under me, but I’ve barely knocked the bar off. So, it’s there. I know it’s there.”

Both the men’s and women’s squads cracked the top-25 of the latest NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field National Rating Index, placing 23rd and 25th, respectively.

“The national poll (is a result of) of the weekend we had (at the Don Kirby Invitational and Husky Classic),” Elizondo said. “It feels really good to get that (national) support.”

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Vinny Lavalsiti | Sports staff
Lavalsiti is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball beat. He was previously a reporter on the women's basketball, cross country and track & field beats.
Lavalsiti is currently a Sports staff writer on the softball beat. He was previously a reporter on the women's basketball, cross country and track & field beats.
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