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UCLA track and field gears up for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational

Senior pole vaulter Katerina Adamiec cleared 13 feet 1.5 inches in the 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational. (Anya Yakimenko/Daily Bruin staff)

By Rahaf Abumansour

Jan. 18, 2024 4:31 p.m.

Preparations are underway as a new season approaches the horizon.

UCLA track and field is gearing up for its first indoor track meet of the season. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational will take place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, beginning on Jan. 20.

Returning to the scene of their previous triumphs, the Bruins defeated USC on their previous trip to New Mexico. Thirteen members of the team placed first overall the last time the Bruins competed at this invitational, a positive foreshadowing for the upcoming season.

Last season, senior pole vaulter/jumper Katerina Adamiec opened the indoor season with a first-place finish at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational, where she cleared 13 feet 1.5 inches.

Adamiec said her goal for the upcoming season is to remain consistent.

“Our mentality this year is to keep fighting all the way through it,” Adamiec said.

Adamiec wasn’t the only one with results last year, as UCLA won both the men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relay events. In a close competition, the men’s team– including sprinters senior Antonie Nortje and graduate students Sam Herenton, Ismail Turner and former sprinter Willington Wright – bested crosstown rival USC. They ran a time of 3:05.03, defeating the Trojans by less than 0.5 seconds.

Sophomore sprinter John Robinson IV said the Bruins have been working hard ahead of their first meet of the season.

“Training has been very well, everything is falling into place and it is productive and we have been hitting the times well,” Robinson IV said.

While three of the Bruins from the men’s relay team are set to return for another season, Wright will be notably absent.

The then-graduate student jumped up to the top 10 on UCLA’s all-time indoor list in both the 200-meter race and relay. At the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational, the relay team broke the school record for the most relays ever run. Wright then defeated his own record at the Don Kirby Invitational less than a month later. He also found himself on UCLA’s 400-meter record list and ran the ninth-fastest indoor time in school history with a time of 46.65.

In a parallel display of excellence, the sprinters on the women’s 4×400-meter relay squad, which included sophomore Naomi Johnson, junior Aly Conyers and seniors Rose Pittman and Kate Jendrezak, also defeated USC by 0.63 seconds with a time of 3:37.07.

Robinson IV said while preparing for the upcoming invitational, the team also has its eyes beyond the regular stage.

“There are people who are going to win national championships and they just want to win.”

The Bruins enter the new season with renewed energy and an urge to start off the 2024 season strong.

“Last year it was a fight to be good,” Adamiec said. “This year it’s a fight to be at the top.”

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Rahaf Abumansour
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