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UCLA track and field leaves Albuquerque with new confidence for 2024 indoor season

Junior sprinter Aly Conyers sprints on the track. Conyers placed fifth in the women’s 300-meter race at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Sam Schuette

Jan. 22, 2024 3:53 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 23 at 11:06 p.m. 

Saturday marked a new beginning for the Bruins.

UCLA track and field started its 2024 indoor season in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Saturday at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational. The meet, hosted by the University of New Mexico, featured 22 schools, with UCLA representing one of four Pac-12 teams competing. The Bruins sent just 18 athletes to the meet but compiled six top-five individual finishes across all events.

Sophomore pole vaulter Hunter O’Brien placed second in his event with 5.24 meters in height – good enough for a new personal best to open the season.

O’Brien said his consistent training contributed to his record.

“One thing that really, really helped over the last month is our practices have been really consistent,” O’Brien said. “My speed is improving and my strength is improving. So the last few weeks have been building up to this.”

Junior sprinter Aly Conyers also earned a top-five finish, placing fifth in the women’s 300-meter race. Her 37.73-second clip earned her one of two personal records, as her 7.58-second finish in the 60-meter race marked another personal best.

Conyers said confidence was key to her personal bests in both events.

“My biggest improvement was probably my confidence,” Conyers said. “I just went to the meet with a better mindset of knowing that I was going to do well and being confident in my training.”

Other notable performances came across the Bruin roster. The senior duo of Ka’Leila Abrille and Katerina Adamiec landed spots on the podium in the women’s pole vault event, placing first and third, respectively. Abrille’s 4.12-meter vault set a personal best.

Senior thrower Aidan Elbettar, coming off of a trip to the NCAA regionals meet last season, finished third in the shot put, notching 17.15 meters on his throw. On the track, freshman sprinter Gabriel Clement II kickstarted his collegiate career strong with a fourth-place finish in the men’s 400-meter race, running 33.67 seconds as the race’s fastest freshman.

Despite several podium finishes, O’Brien said the team didn’t approach the meet with huge expectations.

“We just wanted to get the nerves out and do what we’ve been practicing for,” O’Brien said. “We didn’t have too big expectations, so we wanted to go do what we do and put the practice to work.”

Conyers added that the team’s focus stayed on their effort.

“The goal was to give 100% of what we had this weekend,” Conyers said. “We wanted to touch our feet in the water and get used to an indoor track again. I think it was a great start.”

While the season opener featured numerous notable performances from the Bruins, it’s a mere preview of what’s to come in their 2024 indoor season. Next weekend, the Bruins will field two separate squads for two separate meets: the New Mexico Open hosted again by the University of New Mexico and the University of Washington Invitational hosted by its namesake.

O’Brien said the team is on an uphill track moving forward.

“As a team, we want to keep putting in the work,” O’Brien said. “Then from there, we can hopefully keep improving throughout the season.”

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