Track and field claims four first-place finishes at MPSF Indoor Championships
Senior thrower Justin Stafford broke the 21-meter threshold in the weight throw at the MPSF Indoor Championships, securing a first-place finish. Stafford qualified for the NCAA Championships in the hammer throw last season. (Daily Bruin file photo)
February 24, 2019 7:25 pm
The Bruins opened their postseason this weekend.
UCLA men’s track and field earned second place at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Championships in Seattle behind four first-place finishes.
Junior distance runner Robert Brandt claimed wins in the 3000-meter and 5000-meter, logging a personal and UCLA record in the 3000-meter with a time of 7 minutes, 50.27 seconds. Brandt is now the all-time record holder in both the 3000-meter and 5000-meter in UCLA history.
“It’s definitely a little surreal at times. I came into the weekend expecting to place highly but I didn’t think I’d win in both,” Brandt said. “It was definitely a pleasant surprise and it just goes to show all the work I’ve put in. It feels really rewarding.”
Freshman Sondre Guttormsen earned his third event win of the season in the pole vault. He and Brandt were joined by senior thrower Justin Stafford, who broke the 21-meter threshold in the weight throw for the first time in his career en route to a first-place finish.
“It feels great to have thrown a new (personal record) and hopefully gotten into indoor nationals,” Stafford said. “(Assistant coach) John Frazier prepared me to do my best this past weekend and we are excited to get back to work to prepare for nationals.”
The men’s team recorded eight top-5 finishes, including from redshirt junior distance runner Colin Burke in the 5000-meter, freshman Sean Lee in the high jump, sophomore Tate Curran in the pole vault, and redshirt senior thrower Dotun Ogundeji in the shot put along with Brandt, Guttormsen and Stafford. The men’s team finished with 76 points on the weekend, second behind BYU’s 93.
The women’s team finished 13th with 20 points across all events. The team’s top performers were sophomore distance runner Christina Rice, who finished second in the 5000-meter, redshirt senior Elleyse Garrett, who finished third in the pole vault, and redshirt senior thrower Ashlie Blake, who finished third in the shot put.
“It was an interesting start to the race because we got out and it was pretty slow through the first couple of laps,” Rice said. “It was about going out there and running and staying there with the top girls. I’m more happy with the overall place because that’s what I was focusing on in the race.”
UCLA’s next meet is the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships in Birmingham, Alabama. Athletes qualify for the national championships if they are one of the top 16 athletes in their event throughout the season.
As the rankings currently stand, the Bruins would be represented by Brandt, who is currently No. 7 and No. 14 in the men’s 3000-meter and 5000-meter, respectively; Guttormsen, who ranks No. 4 in the men’s pole vault; Ogundeji, who is No. 8 in the men’s shot put; Stafford, who is No. 15 in the men’s weight throw; sophomore Alyssa Wilson, who ranks at No. 4 and No. 6 in the women’s shot put and weight throw, respectively; and Blake, who is No. 12 in the women’s shot put.
“Winning conference was a level I didn’t think I’d reach this year; I’ve got to readjust my mindset and give myself the confidence that I can compete for national titles now,” Brandt said. “There are some good guys in there, and some guys that I’ve never really even been close to, but I need to start shifting my mindset and get more confident in my ability to compete with the best.”