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UCLA track and field wins close contests against rival USC at MLK Invitational

Junior pole vaulter Katerina Adamiec releases the pole midair. Adamiec achieved a personal best by surpassing four meters at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational last weekend. (Anya Yakimenko/Daily Bruin staff)

By Declan LeDrew

Jan. 24, 2023 1:38 p.m.

The Bruins’ crosstown rivalry moved to New Mexico for the weekend.

UCLA track and field won five events while competing in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Saturday. The Bruins beat the Trojans in several closely contested events and were neck and neck throughout the weekend.

UCLA won both the men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relay events. The men’s team, which consisted of junior sprinter Antonie Nortje, senior sprinter Samuel Herenton, senior sprinter Ismail Turner and graduate student sprinter Willington Wright, beat out USC’s A team in an extremely close event.

Wright said there was extra motivation going into his race against USC, not only because of the school rivalry but because of a family rivalry as well.

“I have a cousin who runs on their 4×400 as well, and so it’s more personal,” Wright said. “It’s a family rivalry now to see which squad is better. The motivation to beat ‘SC (USC) is high, and you can feel it in the air.”

The Bruins beat the Trojans by less than half a second with a time of 3:05.03 to 3:05.47. In a moment of deja vu during the women’s 4×400-meter relay event, the UCLA squad consisting of freshman sprinter Naomi Johnson, sophomore sprinter Aly Conyers, junior sprinter Rose Pittman and junior sprinter Kate Jendrezak would go on to beat USC by 0.63 seconds with times of 3:37.07 and 3:37.74, respectively.

The 4×400-meter relay events were not the only times that the blue and gold would beat the Trojans to claim victory. Redshirt sophomore sprinter/hurdler Yanla Ndjip-Nyemeck won the women’s 60-meter hurdles event, beating out second-place Allie Jones from USC with a time of 8.17 seconds to 8.26 seconds.

UCLA claimed two of the top three spots in the women’s pole vault event, including an all-time personal best performance by junior pole vaulter Katerina Adamiec. Adamiec won in a tie with Kaeli Thompson of Texas, each

Adamiec said achieving a new personal best was emotional because of the dedication leading up to the result.

“I was ecstatic,” Adamiec said. “It’s been a long time coming to try and get four meters for me, so I was jumping around on the pit, and I almost cried.”

Graduate student thrower Mayyi Mahama won the women’s weight throw event with a 20.16-meter throw on her second attempt, while junior sprinter/middle distance runner Rose Pittman won the women’s 400-meter with a time of 56.39, beating out second place by more than a second.

UCLA women took the top three spots in the women’s 60-meter dash, with sophomore sprinter Chinyere Okoro taking first, Johnson taking second and Conyers taking third.

With the Bruins’ strong performance to open the year, the team has high hopes for the season, according to Adamiec.

“Our team had an amazing season opener. We have a lot of really good, new athletes on the team,” Adamiec said. “We have some transfer and grad students. We have definitely been looking at possibly winning the Pac-12 championship this year.”

Wright shared the same sentiments.

“I feel like we have the team and the potential to do something spectacular and create a legacy, a lasting legacy for this university,” Wright said. “With the rich history that we have already, it is exciting. We are in a new era – almost a renaissance of UCLA track and field.”

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Declan LeDrew
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