The full Bruin squad will start its postseason this weekend.
The No. 22-ranked UCLA track and field men’s team and No. 24-ranked women’s team will compete at the Pac-12 track and field championships in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday and Sunday.
“There’s a higher intensity and a little more pressure (that comes with postseason meets) because there are team points at stake,” said director Avery Anderson. “You need to have the understanding that you’re doing it for the four letters across your chest and your teammates.”
The women’s team is currently third in the women’s team standings after redshirt junior Christina Chenault placed third in the heptathlon at last week’s Pac-12 multievents championship. There are six Bruins who currently own NCAA championship-qualifying marks, which means they were in the top 48 of their respective events, across seven events – including sophomore thrower Alyssa Wilson, who is ranked No. 2, No. 2 and No. 12 in the women’s shot put, hammer and discus, respectively.
“For championship meets, you take a step back and refocus. Now you have to go out there and actually perform,” Wilson said. “I’ve always set high expectations for myself. I’m getting more confident in my throws and my technique and I’m really building off of that.”
Though the men’s team did not send any representatives to the Pac-12 multievents championship, it is currently ranked No. 1 in the NCAA West region with 11 athletes holding NCAA championship-qualifying marks across nine events.
“Going into Pac-12s, we all know that the hard work is done; heading into the championship season is about fine-tuning things and getting into the championship mindset,” said junior distance runner Robert Brandt, who is ranked No. 13 and No. 24 in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter, respectively. “Last year, I wasn’t very sure where I was at. This year, I’ve started to see the mental side of the sport, and I’m starting to have more confidence in my abilities.”
If the current qualifiers maintain their national standings through to the NCAA championships, the Bruins will increase the size of their championship squad from seven last year to 17 in Anderson’s second year at the helm of the program.
“When the new group of athletes came in, they brought an energy that resembles championship-caliber programs. We know we still have some work to do to get to that point, but the mindset, focus and energy are there,” Anderson said. “We saw a small sample of that last year, but this year it’s a much bigger sample across the board. It’s sprinters, jumpers, throwers, distance athletes, and it’s totally exciting.”
Wilson said Anderson’s leadership has helped reshape and refocus how the athletes train. Brandt said that it has brought noticeable results to the Bruins’ meet performances.
“Everything feels like it’s falling into place, and we’re all bought into (Anderson’s) vision,” Brandt said. “Across the sprinters, distance and field events, everybody stepped up (for the USC dual meet), which is something I haven’t seen since I’ve been here.”
The team will also send six distance runners to the Oxy Invitational on Saturday in search of qualifying marks for the NCAA West regionals.