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March Madness: Sweet 16 runs

Track and field seeks NCAA-qualifying marks over course of three competitive meets

Sophomore distance runner Christina Rice (far right) will compete in the women’s 5K for UCLA track and field at the Mt. SAC Relays in Torrance, California this week. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin)

By Peter Frederick

April 18, 2019 1:08 a.m.

UCLA track and field is competing in three meets this week.

The Bruins will send athletes to the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa, the Beach Invitational in Long Beach and the Mt. SAC Relays in Torrance from Wednesday to Saturday.

UCLA’s lone athlete competing at the Bryan Clay Invitational is redshirt junior heptathlete Christina Chenault. The invitational marks Chenault’s first competition in a full heptathlon since the 2018 Pac-12 championship, where she placed 8th. She is currently in first place in Azusa. The competition will conclude Thursday.

Among the athletes competing at Mt. SAC is sophomore distance runner Christina Rice, who will compete in the women’s 5,000-meter. In Rice’s last meet, the Jim Bush Legends Invitational, Rice finished first in the women’s 10,000-meter with a time of 34 minutes, 25.25 seconds.

“My goals this year are to make it to regionals again like last year and to break 34 minutes on my 10K,” Rice said. “I ran 19 laps (in my first 10K this season) alone which was pretty brutal. If I can run that and get a regional mark all by myself, once I get put in a race, I should be able to hit my goals.”

Redshirt senior Joe Herrera is one of four seniors running in the 4×400-meter relay this weekend. The quartet finished first with a time of 3:09.53 at the Jim Bush Legends Invitational the last time they competed as a group.

“I think I’m doing well this year, I just need to get past some mental barriers and then I’ll be able to reach some goals I set for myself this year,” Herrera said. “I think we have a good 4×400-meter relay team this year, so I’m looking forward to some good competition that will push us to where we can be.”

With the team firmly in outdoor season now, both Herrera and Rice said they were feeling more confident in their racing abilities.

“Indoor just kind of throws you into it; you don’t really feel in shape but you just have to race through it,” Rice said. “A lot of people are now getting to the point where they’re getting more confident with what they can do and the times they can run so that’s fun to see.”

UCLA throwers, such as sophomore Alyssa Wilson and redshirt senior Dotun Ogundeji, will be competing at both the Beach Invitational and the Mt. SAC Invitational over the weekend.

Looking ahead, Bruin athletes will strive to reach their qualifying marks for the NCAA regionals and championship meets. Currently, 18 athletes are ranked in the top 48 nationally across 16 events, and another three athletes are within five spots of that championship-qualifying mark.

Standouts among those currently in qualifying position include Wilson, who is ranked second, sixth and 12th in the women’s hammer throw, shot put and discus, respectively, and Ogundeji, who is ranked third and 10th in the men’s shot put and discus, respectively.

“We want to get our regional marks at Mt. SAC and USC, so we’re pushing towards those two meets,” said assistant coach Curtis Allen. “Up to now, (our training has) been about strength, conditioning and staying healthy, but now it’s time to start moving faster so we should start seeing our regional marks this weekend.”

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Peter Frederick | Alumnus
Frederick joined the Bruin as a junior in 2017 and contributed until he graduated in 2019. He spent time on the cross country and track and field beats.
Frederick joined the Bruin as a junior in 2017 and contributed until he graduated in 2019. He spent time on the cross country and track and field beats.
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