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UCLA track and field podiums seven times at Texas A&M Charlie Thomas Invitational

Redshirt junior sprinter Yanla Ndjip-Nyemeck jumps over the hurdle. Ndjip-Nyemeck earned the Bruins’ sole first-place finish at the Texas A&M Charlie Thomas Invitational. (Courtesy of Jimmy Su)

By Rahaf Abumansour

Feb. 5, 2024 4:45 p.m.

The Bruins made waves of their own amid Los Angeles’ rains.

UCLA track and field traveled to College Station, Texas for the Texas A&M Charlie Thomas Invitational on Saturday. The Bruins racked up seven podium finishes, including one first-place achievement.

The meet pitted UCLA against Big Ten schools – including Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota – just before the team’s move to the conference next year.

“We were definitely lucky to go to Texas and compete against SEC schools and Big Ten schools and Big 12 schools that we don’t normally compete against until nationals or regionals,” said graduate student jumper Asha Fletcher.

Saturday’s affair marked the Bruins’ second venture into Texas, last time being in the 2023 outdoor season where they eclipsed two outdoor UCLA records.

Last season, the men’s 4×400 meter relay squad, comprised of graduate students Cameron Reynolds, Willington Wright, Ismail Turner and senior Antonie Nortje, broke the school record after 36 years. The crew secured a third-place finish with a time of 2:59.25, slating in as the seventh fastest in the event’s annals.

Following its triumphs in Seattle and New Mexico, the pole vault squad added more to the mix in Texas.

Senior pole vaulter Ka’Leila Abrille ranked second with a 4.36 meter tally. Among other podium finishes were in men’s shot put, women’s high jump and women’s triple jump.

The Bruins’ sole first-place finish Saturday was secured by redshirt junior sprinter Yanla Ndjip-Nyemeck, whose 8.19 second time in the 60-meter hurdles edged out the runner-up by 0.008 seconds.

“I’d say that, even though there were less schools there, the competition was higher than the last two meets,” Fletcher said.

On the men’s front, Texas A&M and Arizona State claimed the top two spots in the men’s 4×400 meter relay, as UCLA landed in third place with a time of 3:07.37, – a slight improvement from its Seattle finish of 3:07.53.

The same relay team – featuring Nortje, freshman Gabriel Clement II, Reynolds and Turner – that clinched a victory in Seattle competed in Texas, except for Nortje, who was replaced by graduate student Myles Misener-Daley.

A similar scenario unfolded on the women’s side, as the squad consisting of senior Kate Jendrezak, junior Aly Conyers, sophomore Naomi Johnson and redshirt Kaylen Fletcher grabbed a third-place finish behind Texas A&M and the University of Houston, posting a time of 3:33.13.

On the field, senior thrower Aidan Elbettar came in third place in the men’s shot put at 16.92 meters.

Elbettar said his focus is on the outdoor season, as shot put is more of a secondary event for him.

“Going into the indoor season, it is always ‘Let’s just throw as far as I can and see what happens,’” said Elbettar. “Right now, we are focused on going out for the outdoor season and having an amazing discus season.”

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