Track and field athletes step up in national, international competition
Thrower Justin Stafford graduated from UCLA track and field in June before heading to the Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships as one of the four former or current Bruins competing in the events. Stafford placed 16th of 18 in the men’s hammer throw. (Axel Lopez/Daily Bruin senior staff)
By Jared Tay
July 29, 2019 12:33 am
This post was updated July 29 at 1:12 p.m.
The track and field collegiate season may have ended almost two months ago, but many Bruins are still competing during the summer months.
Four former and current Bruins traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, to compete in the Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships from Thursday to Sunday.
Rising junior thrower Alyssa Wilson and graduated senior thrower Justin Stafford, who competed unattached to UCLA or other affiliation, took the field in four events combined.
The top 18 athletes who had declared themselves eligible for the outdoor championships qualified for the meet.
“There may have been people who had thrown marks that were better than mine over the season, but they decided to stop their season early,” Stafford said. “But that was a small number, so essentially, it was the best 18 throwers in the country.”
The men’s hammer throw concluded Friday and Stafford placed 16th out of 18 total athletes with his best throw tallying 65.49 meters.
“In (the USA meet), most of the competitors were post-collegiate and have already thrown at a high level for a longer period of time (than I have),” Stafford said.
The first-place finisher, Conor McCullough, threw a personal best 78.14 meters, while Colin Dunbar, the last qualifying athlete for the final round of the competition, threw for 70.93 meters on his best attempt. Dunbar’s qualifying throw was still farther than Stafford’s personal best when he tallied a throw of 68.57 meters at the Beach Invitational in April, good for the third-longest in UCLA history.
“I just really worked hard to get into this meet, but (the competition was stiffer than NCAA), and it was a good reminder of what I need to work on and improve,” Stafford said. “In the future it will be a challenge, but that’s what is exciting about the sport. (After college), it forces you to get creative on how to make it happen (and compete at the professional level).”
In the women’s hammer throw, Wilson placed eighth with her farthest throw recorded at 65.36 meters. That throw came on her first attempt and was good enough for her to claim the last spot in the finals – her first final round appearance at a USA track and field event, according to Stafford.
On Sunday, Wilson did not advance to the final round of the discus nor the shot put. She placed 16th and 17th, respectively, and failed to tally a shot put throw longer than 15 meters.
Kylie Price – who competed for the Bruins from 2012-2016 – participated in the long jump, while volunteer assistant coach Kendall Gustafson took part in the heptathlon unattached.
The women’s long jump concluded Saturday with Price finishing in 16th place. The Bruin alumna’s best jump was on her first attempt and measured 6.07 meters but was not far enough to qualify for the final heat.
The 16 competitors in the women’s heptathlon began competition Saturday with the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200-meter dash. Gustafson notched a fourth-place finish in the shot put with her throw measuring 13.43 meters but placed 15th in both the hurdles and 200-meter.
“(Gustafson and I) were in the weight room at similar times this year,” Stafford said. “We would talk about training and I know she was really excited to compete. She’s been working super hard all year for this.”
Gustafson finished Saturday having placed 10th overall, with the long jump, javelin throw and 800-meter to come Sunday.
After finishing ninth, fifth and 12th in those events, respectively, Gustafson finished the heptathlon ninth overall. Her best placement came in shot put, in which her best attempt measured 13.43 meters.
While those Bruins were competing stateside, rising sophomore Sondre Guttormsen took to the international stage, punching his ticket to Tokyo 2020.
The Norwegian pole vaulter claimed a silver medal and Olympic-qualifying height Wednesday at the Bayer Classics held in Germany. On his second attempt, Guttormsen cleared a height of 5.80 meters, breaking his own Norwegian national record of 5.75 meters.
During his 2019 season with the Bruins, Guttormsen set a UCLA indoor pole vault record of 5.73 meters and was named as a Second Team All-American for his ninth-place finish at the NCAA championships in June.