Saturday, August 24

Track and field invitational sees UCLA athletes win big, achieve personal bests

Sophomore pole vaulter Tate Curran posted a first-place jump of 5.15 meters in front of his family. His father, Anthony Curran, is the pole vault coach for UCLA track and field. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

Sophomore pole vaulter Tate Curran posted a first-place jump of 5.15 meters in front of his family. His father, Anthony Curran, is the pole vault coach for UCLA track and field. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

The Bruins had the opportunity to perform in front of their home crowd for the first time this season.

UCLA track and field hosted the Bob Larsen Distance Carnival and Jim Bush Legends Invitational at Drake Stadium on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Bruins placed first in a season-best 16 events and recorded first-and-second-place finishes six times.

“It’s always fun seeing blue cross the line first,” said junior distance runner Robert Brandt.

Brandt saw blue cross the finish line first, second and third in two track events – including his own.

Brandt – the only UCLA athlete to qualify for NCAA championships in two track events – was the leader of a trio of Bruins consisting of redshirt sophomore Garrett Reynolds and redshirt junior Colin Burke in the 10,000-meter, with a first-place time of 28:55.27. Brandt climbed to fifth on the UCLA all-time outdoor list in the event and Reynolds’ mark placed him ninth all-time.

“I think a goal of mine is to eventually break the UCLA (10,000-meter outdoor) record,” Brandt said. “Obviously, it’s going to be very hard with (Meb Keflezighi) holding that spot right now.”

Keflezighi was a four-time NCAA champion under former coach Bob Larsen and an Olympian competing in the 10,000-meter and marathon, and holds a 39-second advantage over Brandt.

Brandt said the team toed the starting line with the goal of notching qualifying marks for NCAA West Regionals in May, but the long-term goal is for the group to qualify for nationals together.

Brandt, Reynolds and Burke exchanged leads in the remaining five kilometers after the race’s pacer veered off the track.

“I was talking to (Reynolds and Burke) before,” Brandt said. “We’ll hopefully have a pacer halfway – which we did. … It was really fun to get in there and work together. It was a good display of teamwork.”

Freshman Sophie Scott, sophomore Paige Carter and freshman Kira Loren had a 1-2-3 sweep of their own in the 1500-meter earlier on Friday. Carter and Loren finished roughly a second behind Scott’s first-place time of 4:35.40.

After an injury-ridden outdoor season last year, redshirt junior Arturo Sotomayor took first place in the one mile and 800-meter races with times of 4:03.17 and 1:51.68, respectively.

“For (Sotomayor) to come out and win two races is huge,” Brandt said. “I think (Sotomayor) wants more timewise, but from where he was last year to where he is now is a huge (change).”

Despite a couple underwhelming warm-up jumps, sophomore pole vaulter Tate Curran registered a first-place jump of 5.15 meters in front of his family, who had the opportunity to watch him compete in a Bruin uniform for the first time.

“Warm-ups weren’t actually that great,” Curran said. “Then I kind of figured it out at my opening height (of 4.75 meters), and (senior Michael Fancey) started making bars pretty easily. I was like ‘Man, I can’t let him beat me.’”

Curran and Fancey were the only pole vaulters to attempt the 5.15-meter bar, but Fancey failed on all three tries and settled with a personal-record 5.05-meter jump for second place.

Redshirt senior thrower Dotun Ogundeji led the UCLA shot put quartet with a toss of 19.68 meters, while redshirt sophomore Nate Esparza, freshman Otito Ogbonnia and redshirt freshman Jacob Wilson finished second, third and fourth, respectively.

Sophomore thrower Alyssa Wilson repeated her success from a week ago at the Aztec Invitational with another triad of victories in the shot put, weight throw and hammer throw.

Wilson’s 67.67-meter toss in the hammer throw was roughly 1 1/2 feet shorter than her performance last week, but she also posted a season-best mark in the shot put with a toss of 16.83 meters.

“I wasn’t happy with (my performances), but I wasn’t upset (either),” Wilson said. “I think the energy wasn’t there.”

The Bruins will compete at Drake Stadium again Saturday, when they host the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational.

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Sports reporter

Lavalsiti is currently a reporter on the women's basketball and track & field beats.

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