Tritons Place High at Conference Championships

Triton men take crown from Chico State, women’s team places third.

Photo By Alwin Szeto
Photo By Alwin Szeto

The UCSD men’s and women’s track and field teams finished their regular season this past weekend at San Francisco State’s Cox Stadium, competing in the California Collegiate Athletic Association championships. The men’s   first-place finish marked the end of Chico State’s 11-year winning streak, while the women placed third overall behind first-place Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona at the end of the three-day meet.

Senior Nash Howe and junior Haley Libuit kicked things off for the Tritons on Thursday with first-place finishes in the men’s and women’s javelin. Howe won the javelin for the third consecutive year with a throw of 208 feet. Howe, the only automatic NCAA championship qualifier, already solidified his spot earlier in the season at the San Diego Collegiate Challenge with an astounding 222-foot throw. Libuit won her event with a personal best throw of 141-1/2, good for fifth on the UCSD all-time list.

“The trick with javelin is that less is more … so I [had] to relax,” Libuit told the UCSD Athletics Department. “I guess I was more relaxed [on Thursday], which is what helped.”

Sophomore Dan Golubovic also had a solid finish in the javelin, with a throw of 180-2/3, good for third place, while senior Travis Vandegriff took fifth. On the women’s side, senior Ellexi Snover finished in fourth with a 125-1/4 throw. After the first day of competition, the men were in second while the women were in first.

The second day of events proved to be equally exciting, with several Tritons earning podium finishes and setting personal and school records, starting with the women’s 10k run. For the second year in a row, junior Paige Hughes finished in first place, this time with a new personal best of 36:02.64, beating the second-place finisher sophomore Sadie Gastelum from Chico State by nearly two seconds.

“I just had this stress coming in,” Hughes said. “There was tougher competition going into it this year. … You’re doing it for your team to score as many points as [you] can.”

The team notion was exactly what head coach Tony Salerno tried to emphasize, as well, telling the UCSD Athletics Department, “We put so much focus on the team aspect of track and field. It’s very much a group effort, and it paid off.”

In the men’s 10k, junior Tareq Alwafai and senior Tanner Collins, making their collegiate debuts in this event, finished in second and third, respectively, with impressive times of 31:33.72 and 31:45.24. Both men also hold NCAA provisional qualifying times for the 5k.

On the field, the Triton men swept the competition in the high jump, with freshman Luis Carson (6-6 3/4), junior Sean Cook (6-4 3/4), freshman Raymond Silver (6-4 3/4), freshman Ruthvik Sunilkumar (6-4 3/4) and Golubovic (6-4 3/4), taking the top-five spots, respectively. In the long jump, the men continued to perform well, with freshman Matt Bowen earning a provisional qualifying mark of 23-11 1/2 and a third-place finish. Cook (22-9 3/4), senior Kyle Chiu (22-3/4) and sophomore Derek Van de Streek (21 3/4), finished not far behind in fourth, fifth and eighth, respectively.

In the women’s heptathlon, senior Veronica Bradley finished in third place and improved her provisional qualifying score to 4,550 points, a season best. Golubovic, who was the defending decathlon conference champion, opted not to participate in the decathlon at this meet in order to earn more points for the Tritons by participating in various other events, which proved to be a smart move for the Tritons, as Golubovic earned a whopping 23 of the men’s 216 points.

At the end of day two, the men moved up to first place, while the women remained in the top spot.

On the third day of competition, the Triton triple jumpers dominated the field. Team captain senior Chantia Justice (39-2 1/5) — who had finished in second for two years — and junior Kristin Sato (38-7 1/2), who both hold provisional qualifying marks for this event, finished in first and second, respectively. On the men’s side, Bowen (49 1/4), Van de Streek (46-6 1/4) and Cook (45-5 3/4) finished in first, third and sixth. Bowen and Van de Streek also have provisional qualifying marks in the triple jump, and Bowen’s impressive jump moves him up to second on the all-time list.

“It’s really nice to finally win. I’m hoping that next week at Last Chance, I’ll peak [and qualify for the NCAAs],” Justice told the UCSD Athletics Department.

Back on the track, senior Connor Macky and sophomore Jared Senese held their own in the 400 and 800-meter runs. Macky and Senese took first and second in the 400-meter run with personal best times of 48.51 and 48.61, respectively. Senese, who holds a provisional qualifying time in the 800, finished in 1:54.30, good for fourth place.

“I didn’t try to let [being] the top seed [in the 400] get to my head,” Macky said. “I couldn’t have done any of this without [my teammates].”

Both the Triton men and women performed well in the hurdle events, earning a few podium finishes. Sophomore Markus Woods became the 400 hurdles conference champion, setting a season record of 53.95. For the women’s 400 hurdles, freshman Meghan Fletcher crossed the line in 63.05 in third place. Her teammate, junior Michelle Cummins came in third in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.55.

The Tritons continued to dominate in the relay events. In the men’s 4×400-meter relay — consisting of Macky, Van de Streek, freshman Isaiah King and Senese — the Triton men finished in second with a season-best time of 3:15.18. The women also did well in the same even, with sophomore Jackie Chalmers, sophomore Marissa Padilla, freshman Michaela King and Snover finishing in third with a time of 3:49.83.

In the women’s 5k, junior Corinne Hinkle had a solid second-place finish with a time of 17:24.26. Hughes, who had run the arduous 10k the previous day, had a decent sixth-place finish, crossing the finish line in 17:32.13.

With one event left, the Triton men trailed Chico State 212–204. In the men’s pole vault, fifth-year Clint Rosser finished in third, clearing the 15-11 1/4 mark, closing the gap. Golubovic (15-7 1/4) and junior Tim Schmidt (15-1 1/4) came in fifth and seventh, respectively. Together, they earned 12 points for the Tritons, which was just enough for UCSD to edge out Chico State for first place in the conference. Chico State finished in second place with 213 points, shy of first by just three points, while Cal Poly Pomona finished in third with 153 points.

Ultimately, the Triton women fell to third place (138.5 points), behind Chico State (213.5) and Cal Poly Pomona (142). Chico State has now won the conference title six times in a row.

With a historical finish by the Triton men, Salerno said, “We’ll look at nationals, but no matter what happens this is going to be the highlight.”

The track and field teams will have a last chance to improve upon their times to qualify for nationals next weekend, May 9 at the Cal State Los Angeles Last Chance Qualifier meet.