In a hot, humid NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Kingsville, Texas, five UC San Diego athletes were named All-Americans, the most for the program since 2012. Redshirt senior Matt Bowen (triple jump), senior Natalie Caraway (high jump), and senior Nicholas Rack (110-meter hurdles) were named to the First-Team All-America, while Bowen (long jump) and junior Claudia Cox (400-meter hurdles) were named to the Second-Team All-America.
Rack is no stranger to the national championships. After missing out on a nationals bid by a hundredth of a second in his sophomore campaign, Rack set himself on a clear path. “Going into my junior year, I just had that mindset where there was nothing that could stop me from making it,” he said. He has now reached the national finals for two consecutive years, placing fourth last year and sixth this year. Rack earned the honor after squeezing into the final slot in preliminaries by just three-hundredths of a second and finished his last race in 14.11 seconds.
Although he dealt with a hip adductor strain during the season, which made workouts and meets difficult, Rack says much of his development happened off the track as well. “I’ve definitely developed senior year at learning how to deal with people,” he said. “It’s been a journey that I will value for the rest of my life, and those experiences will shape who I am in the future — they’ve shaped who I am now.”
Rack leaves UCSD as the record holder in the 110-meter hurdles; he broke an 18-year record with a 14.00 at last season’s California Collegiate Athletic Association championships. As to what having the record means to him, he said, “When I finally hit that last year … it meant a lot. Just seeing, like, the team and all the people I cared about cheering, I knew how much it meant to them.” As for his All-America titles, he said, “It’s sort of validation on how much we’ve worked throughout the year … It’s kind of a feeling of relief and satisfaction where it all pays off.”
Despite the Texas heat, fellow senior Natalie Caraway, who won CCAA titles this year in both high jump and triple jump, said her competitors made her first national championships a great experience. “As much as it’s competitive in that we’re all capable of doing the same thing, it’s also a really friendly competition. The energy there was really nice,” she said. Caraway finished in a tie for fifth with a 1.69-meter jump, besting her CCAA-winning jump by two centimeters. Although she was competing in her last meet, Caraway tried to remain focused on the goal ahead. “I didn’t reflect on that before because I feel like that would’ve affected my performance … The whole thing about high jump is that you’re trying to do the same thing every time.”
Like Rack, Caraway believes her experience in track and field helped her develop elsewhere as well. “I think that being a part of this team really helped with my interpersonal skill development, and knowing when to talk to people and when not to talk to people, especially when you’re seeing people after competition,” she said. “Everyone competes differently, and everyone has a different energy.”
But Rack and Caraway don’t remember their results as the best part of their four years in UCSD Track & Field. “What made UCSD Track & Field so incredible was the people and the experiences that I got to have with those people,” Caraway said. “After nationals, I got texts and messages from people who I hadn’t seen in three years … Just knowing that I still have those connections made the whole experience come together and close really well for me.”
“The people on this team are all about being a family,” Rack said. He especially remembers last season’s conference championships. “There were so many tears because of all the memories and experiences that we all shared together, and it was all just let out after the conference meet. It was something that really embodied us being a family.”