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Regular season finale sees UCLA track and field split meets against USC

Redshirt senior Jalyn Jackson rises on the long jump. (Ilan Berdy/Daily Bruin)

By Declan LeDrew

May 2, 2023 8:41 p.m.

With Senior Day celebrations ending the day, the Bruins went even in their regular season finale against USC.

UCLA track and field split the dual meet against its rivals Sunday, with the men’s team topping the Trojans 88-70 while the women’s team fell short by 13 points in the 88-75 decision.

Excitement and emotions ran high as the senior athletes competed in front of a home audience for the final time this year.

“It was good to be able to end at a good track meet at Drake Stadium in front of a pretty big and growing crowd,” said coach Avery Anderson. “As we have gotten better as a program, attendance has gotten better. It’s good for them to have that kind of send-off.”

On the men’s side, the Bruins claimed the top three spots in the pole vault event. Freshman vaulter Hunter O’Brien took first with a 2.35-meter finish, while freshman vaulter Shawn Toney and junior vaulter Aiden Lieb tied for second at 2.20. Toney also clinched a victory in the 400m hurdles with a time of 54.41 seconds. The Bruin men also swept the top three spots in the 800-meter, 3000-meter and discus events.

Redshirt senior sprinter Jalyn Jackson – who is a transfer from USC – clinched a victory against his old team with a distance of 15.53 meters in the triple jump.

The final event of the day was the men’s 1600-meter relay, in which players from both teams came onto the track to cheer and create an alley for the runners to pass through on the final straightaway of the race.

The Trojans finished just ahead of the Bruins, causing chaos to burst on the track. Athletes from both schools yelled at and taunted each other, ultimately leading to both teams’ disqualification for unsportsmanlike conduct.

In the women’s 800-meter event, junior sprinter Rose Pittman came from the middle of the pack to overtake the lead around the final turn of the race, winning the event with a time of 2:06.41. Pittman said that was her strategy heading into the race.

“I definitely went into the race with the game plan to just sit and try and get those points for the team,” Pittman said. “I knew that if there was a USC girl who was in contention, just to sit on her and pass in the final stretch.”

Redshirt sophomore sprinter Yanla Ndjip-Nyemeck achieved the 10th-best mark in school history in the women’s 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.18 seconds. Her performance was the first top-10 score in the event in almost 10 years and won her a second-place finish at the meet.

UCLA achieved victories in all three throwing events, taking the top two spots in the hammer, discus and javelin throws. Graduate student thrower Federica Botter won the javelin throw with a mark of 50.88 meters, while fifth-year thrower Lauren McFall took second place with a distance of 44.25 meters.

Botter said the Senior Day ceremony was particularly emotional as she reflected on her journey to UCLA.

“I wasn’t expecting this senior celebration,” Botter said. “I have just arrived in the U.S., and I feel to be in a big family at UCLA thanks to my teammates, my coaches, the fans, the families. To know everyone is cheering for me is really a lot for me, it gives me a lot of emotions.”

The UCLA women dominated in the longer events, taking the top eight spots in the 3000m and the top-seven spots in the 1500-meter races. The Bruins also secured the top six spots in the pole vault, with junior jumper Ka’Leila Abrille claiming victory with a height of 4.07 meters.

With the regular season concluded, the Bruins have their sights set on the Pac-12 championships. Jackson said he has set a specific goal for that meet.

“Definitely Pac-12 champion – I’m going for it all,” Jackson said. “It’s my last year. I’m trying to make the most of it. I think it’s definitely going to happen. It’s already happened – I’m manifesting it.”

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Declan LeDrew
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