The men’s team has progressed in just two years under UCLA track and field director Avery Anderson.
Anderson, who is heading the team, was named the Pac-12 Men’s Track and Field Coach of the Year on Wednesday. The recognition came three days after the Bruins’ men compiled 140 points for a second-place finish at the Pac-12 championship in Tucson, Arizona.
“You’re looking at every event group with people – not just one person – but people who are looking at (a spot) … to vie for the national championship,” Anderson said.
No. 21 UCLA men’s track and field’s 140 points was an improvement from last year’s second-to-last-place finish in which the Bruins logged 38 points.
“I think it’s pretty rare to turn the switch that quick,” said junior distance runner Robert Brandt.
Brandt’s fourth-place finish in the 10,000-meter run gave the men’s distance crew its only five points at last year’s Pac-12 championship. But Sunday, Brandt and redshirt junior Colin Burke placed first and sixth, respectively, in the 10,000-meter for 13 total points.
“Last year, finishing way back in the Pac-12 definitely was a blow to a lot of our confidences,” Brandt said. “But to be able to come back after a tough year like that and to readjust … and do some damage – it feels good.”
Brandt also placed sixth in the 5,000 meter for three additional points.
The throwers accounted for 28 of the Bruins’ 38 points in the Pac-12 championship last year, but none came from the shot put. This year, redshirt senior Dotun Ogundeji led two Bruin underclassmen – redshirt sophomore Nate Esparza and freshman Otito Ogbonnia – with a second-place heave of 20.22 meters. The trio combined for 19 points.
“The thing that I’m most excited about is to see some of the athletes who were here on the team when I got here now exist in a situation where they have a group around them and some new athletes (and) coaches who are out here to try to get (them) to higher levels,” Anderson said.
Freshman Sondre Guttormsen and senior Michael Fancey provided a bevy of points in the men’s pole vault, going back-to-back for 18 points after the Bruins did not have a single competitor in the event a year ago.
“(Fancey) has been very consistent lately and has improved since indoors,” Guttormsen said. “It was good that he was able to step up one spot on the podium and bring home some points.”
The upperclassmen also saw a jump in the standings from their previous season in their short-distance races.
Redshirt senior Joe Herrera finished just three-tenths of a second behind Oregon’s Orwin Emilien in the 400-meter dash to place second, after an eighth-place finish a year ago. Senior transfer Cameron Stone – who defeated Herrera at last year’s Pac-12 championship as a Duck – followed Herrera in sixth place to tack on three points to Herrera’s eight.
The Bruins will not compete this weekend and will resume with the NCAA West Regional championship held from May 23-25.