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Track and field finds success in Washington, New Mexico road trips

Junior distance runner Christina Rice set a new personal record in the 3,000-meter with a final time of 9:20.01. The Bruin runners competed in the UW Invitational while the field competitors faced off in the UNM Team Open. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By David Deng

Feb. 3, 2020 12:42 a.m.

The Bruins continued breaking personal and school records.

UCLA track and field competed in two meets this weekend, with Bruin runners competing in the UW Invitational in Seattle and Bruin field athletes participating in the UNM Team Open in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This marked the fourth consecutive week of travel for the team.

For the field competitors, junior thrower Alyssa Wilson took first in the weight throw and second in the shot put, continuing a season where she has finished in the top three in every event she has entered. Her throw of 22.10 meters in the weight throw was 2.73 meters ahead of the next closest competitor and within .13 meters of her personal record, set in February 2019.

Junior thrower Nate Esparza and redshirt sophomore thrower Jacob Wilson represented the Bruin men in the shot put, with Esparza earning second place and Wilson coming in seventh. This marked Esparza’s second consecutive meet finishing in second place.

“We have a lot of new people on the throws team this year,” Esparza said. “Naturally, I’ve stepped up and (am) just trying to give them advice on things I wish I knew when I was younger and I hope to help them. It’s always better when we have a team where everyone is performing well.”

Sophomore jumper Sean Lee competed in his second meet of the season after winning the high jump in Seattle two weeks ago and took the top spot again with a jump of 2.18 meters, a personal indoor best.

About 1,400 miles northwest of Albuquerque, a platoon of Bruins running in Washington was also setting records.

Season debuts were made by junior distance runner Christina Rice and redshirt senior distance runner Colin Burke, both competing in the 3,000-meter for their respective categories. Rice and Burke both finished in fourth place, stamping their names in the third and fifth place spots of the UCLA indoor top-10 record books, respectively.

Rice said that having a new freshman class energizes her and the other veterans on race day.

“Seeing the (new) sprinters come in and have an immediate impact and having a big freshman class pushes you to be better, being an upperclassman,” Rice said. “It’s nice seeing people making impacts right away, since it builds momentum for everybody, older or younger.”

In the women’s 5,000-meter, senior distance runner Jackie Garner won her heat with a time of 16:50.63 and took 19th overall. Sophomore distance runners Alyssa Bautista and Annabelle Werner, running with Garner in the 5k, both set PRs as well.

“That was one of the fastest openers I’ve ever had,” Garner said. “Coming into this year and realizing that this was it made me realize that I have to put everything into this season, so I’ve been doing everything right as much as I can and appreciating every moment.”

Junior distance runner Chris Morzenti set a personal best in the mile for the second time this season, finishing in 18th place overall with a time of 4:04.64. Morzenti bested his previous PR by over a second.

“I think I can definitely break four this year,” Morzenti said. “Our school record is just above four minutes. There is definitely some fatigue in my legs, especially after the New York trip last week. But being able to come out on tired legs and still set a PR (is) a good sign for things to come.”

The Bruins will return to Albuquerque next week for the New Mexico Collegiate Classic.

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David Deng | Sports contributor
Deng is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball and cross country beats. He was previously a contributor on the women's volleyball and track & field beats.
Deng is currently a Sports contributor on the men's volleyball and cross country beats. He was previously a contributor on the women's volleyball and track & field beats.
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