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UCLA women’s track and field solo entries set personal bests

Redshirt sophomore Yanla Ndjip-Nyemeck hurdles ahead of the competition. The Cal State Northridge transfer has placed first in her first four individual races representing the blue and gold. (Courtesy of Benjamin Kirk)

By Sam Schuette

Feb. 8, 2023 1:43 p.m.

Traveling across multiple states for a track meet poses challenges in itself, but two Bruin athletes dealt with a different dimension of competition last weekend.

UCLA track and field sent sophomore Sydney Johnson and redshirt sophomore Yanla Ndjip-Nyemeck to the Washington State Open and New Mexico Collegiate Classic, respectively, as solo entries – a significant shift from their recent two meets that featured several of their Bruin counterparts. Despite the novel atmospheres, both athletes set personal bests and posted all-time top 10 indoor marks for the blue and gold.

Johnson earned a second-place finish in the women’s pentathlon at the Washington State Open with 3,844 points, 259 shy of the top spot. In addition, Johnson placed in the top half of pentathletes across all five of her individual events, most notably posting top-four finishes in the 60-meter hurdles, high jump and long jump.

Johnson rounded it out with a ninth-place finish in the 800 meters and 12th place in the shot put, setting personal records in both.

“Coming into the meet, I was hoping to improve on my shot put and 800 marks,” Johnson said. “With those two, in addition to performing pretty evenly and well across the board, I was able to get an overall pentathlon PR.”

Her cumulative pentathlon score broke her personal-best set last season by 132 points. It’s also good enough to rank seventh-best among indoor UCLA pentathletes in history, placing her alongside elite company.

Johnson said the process it took to achieve these results was lengthy, especially considering the demands of training for five individual events.

“Typically, I’m averaging about three to four hours a day, with the exception of two rest days per week,” Johnson said. “I would credit it to putting in the extra time that I don’t think I was putting in nearly as much last year. And in addition to that, having an extra month of training in August with the cross-country team made a really big difference.”

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Ndjip-Nyemeck ran 8.18 in the 60-meter hurdles preliminaries to qualify for the finals. She followed it up with a personal best of 8.10 to place fourth overall in the event that featured competition from some of the top-ranked hurdlers in the nation.

Ndjip-Nyemeck said the solo environment required an intentional mindset this weekend.

“It was for sure different,” Ndjip-Nyemeck said. “But it also helped me stay focused, locked in and ready to compete at a high level.”

Ndjip-Nyemeck’s performance lands her third all-time in UCLA history for the women’s indoor 60-meter hurdles. In just her first year with the UCLA program, she has won her first four individual races of the season.

After missing out on a national championships appearance by one place last year as a member of the Cal State Northridge squad, Ndjip-Nyemeck’s rookie season with UCLA has posed an opportunity to finish what she started.

The top 16 women’s indoor hurdlers move on to Division I nationals and after setting a new personal best, Ndjip-Nyemeck holds the nation’s ninth-best time.

“I’m not trying to stay too focused on it,” Ndjip-Nyemeck said. “But that’s my main goal, especially since last year I missed it by one spot. So this is my revenge season.”

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Sam Schuette
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