The UCSD men’s and women’s track and field teams continue to impress some of the toughest competition in all of the NCAA, this time winning four individual events against Division-I opponents Brigham Young University, Stanford and UCLA at the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner Kersey Invitational hosted by the Bruins April 6 through April 8.
Junior Brooks Dierdorff sets the table for sophomore John Wendler in UCSD’s near-upset against the No. 1 Cal Baptist on April 3, the first of three losses in the week for the Tritons.
Senior Brad Libuit won the men’s 100-meter event with a blistering time of 11.03 seconds and freshman Scott Tsuda took first in the men’s long jump with a distance of 21 feet, 2.75 inches. Libuit also took third place in the men’s high jump, tying with three other competitors, including UCSD sophomore Roger Francis, with finishes of 6 feet, 4.75 inches.
Winning an event and a third-place finish representing the only NCAA Division-II school in the invitational says a lot about Libuit’s skills, according to head coach Tony Salerno.
“[Brad’s] a natural athlete and you’re seeing that with him competing in sprints, jumps and throws,” Salerno said. “He brings a whole lot of dimensions with his athleticism.”
Having two male Tritons take first place impressed Salerno, who has seen his women’s team outshine the men for most of the season.
“I keep telling people that as good as our men’s team is, our women’s team is even better — they are just loaded in every event,” Salerno said. “It feels good to see UCLA jerseys behind us at the finish line.”
Salerno may have been more surprised at the men’s results, but his women matched the men with two first-place finishes in the 400 hurdles and the discus.
Sophomore Laiah Blue outhurdled her competition and broke the finish line in 61.93 seconds. Freshman Jillian Sola took the top spot in the discus with a final throw of 154 feet, nine feet more than the second-place finisher from Nevada University. Freshman Sarah Hendy took third place in the same event with a solid toss of 143 feet, 5 inches.
The finishes excited Salerno about his women’s team, which is the No. 1 Divison II team in the country, according to the most recent rankings.
“As good as we were last year when we won the conference, we look even better this year,” Salerno said. “We’re well ahead of the amount of national qualifiers that we were at last year.”
UCSD also earned other top three finishes in the invitational, including junior Elisa Holiday’s jump of 18 feet, 9 inches, just over two inches behind the first-place finisher from Nevada. The men’s team also took second place overall, with senior Jon Patton finishing less than half a second behind UCLA’s Kevin Craddock in the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.73 in the finals.
Given the latest results and the home-field advantage, UCSD expects top marks at the Triton Invitational on April 21 and 22, according to Salerno.
“We’re excited to see what happens,” Salerno said. “We’re going to get some great marks and get our licks in, but with the meet against world-class athletes, you just hope to beat the person next to you and see what happens in the end.”
Before the competition, the Tritons will get tuneups at the Mt. SAC Heptathlon on April 12 and April 13, the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational on April 14 and the Mt. SAC Invitational on April 15.