Track and Field

Track and Field Teams Fight Valiantly at Finals

The UCSD men’s and women’s track and field teams didn’t bring just a team to the NCAA Division-II championships this year — they brought an army. Greg Dale/Guardian Senior sprinter Mimi Hodgins was the national runner-up in the 800-meter race last year, but this year could only muster a seventh place finish with her time of 2 minutes, 16.63 seconds. With a school record of 16 athletes qualifying to participate in the final meet of the year, the Tritons had high hopes that this would be one of their most successful meets ever, and to head coach Tony Salerno’s delight, they didn’t disappoint. The women could not improve on their best finish in school history from last year, but this year’s 18th place finish on the women’s side and 33rd place for the men did not faze Salerno. “To have 16 athletes qualify and to compete the way we did was amazing,” Salerno said. There were several bright spots in the event but none were brighter than senior javelin thrower Briana Hinga, who beat her own school record with a throw of 159 feet, 1 inch. That distance was good enough to land her in third place and secure her All-American status. Salerno said he was extremely pleased with Hinga’s composure and performance. “To have Briana set a school record during her first trip to nationals is an outstanding accomplishment,” Salerno said Hinga may have been the most exceptional Triton athlete at the meet, but four other women also received All-American status. Sophomore hurdler Laiah Blue was able to secure her award by finishing fifth in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.88 seconds. Salerno said he was proud of Blue’s time considering the high-quality competition in the race. “The race was an extremely competitive one with the winner running at a world-class time,” he said. Senior Mimi Hodgins may have been the most anticipated Triton runner at the event, as she looked to improve last year’s national runner-up status in the 800. Hodgins ran well but was only able to place seventh with a time of 2 minutes, 16.63 seconds. Hodgins may have been disappointed, but Salerno was not. “Mimi ran a great race under tough conditions and earned her All-American status for the second year in a row,” he said. A pair of standout Triton youngsters made quite an impression in the women’s discus. Freshman Sarah Hendy earned All-American honors by finishing eighth with a throw of 147 feet, 1 inch. She was joined by her freshman teammate Jillian Sola, who finished in 17th place. Both Hendy’s and Sola’s performances impressed Salerno, who expects the throwing pair to be dominant for the Tritons over the next three years. “There were only four freshmen in the women’s discus and we featured two of the strongest,” Salerno said. “They are two of our future stars.” The women may have been the standouts at this year’s event, but the men held their own with two athletes earning All-American honors in the same event. Speedy seniors Mike Cunningham and Jon Patton finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 400 hurdles. Cunningham ran a time of 51.52 seconds, narrowly beating out Patton, who finished with a time of 51.99 seconds. Although they did not qualify for All-American honors, the women’s 4×4 relay team put on quite a show in their race. The team of senior Sandy Schaefer, freshman Katie Skorupa, junior Elisa Holiday and sophomore Amber Green ran a new school record time of 3:48.22, but that mark only earned the team fifth place in its heat. Salerno expects his team to improve in the event next year. “We produced a new school record and we have three of the athletes returning next year, with the exception of Sandy, who finished up a great career,” he said. When all was said and done at the championships, the Tritons were proud to have six All-Americans, a fact that Salerno says sums up this year’s success. “We had six All-Americans this year; that is more than most other schools even qualify,” he said. ...

Track and Field Wears Ruby Slippers to Finals

After a solid performance from the UCSD men’s and women’s track and field teams at the Occidental Invitational earlier this month, 16 Triton athletes qualified for the NCAA Division-II Championships in Emporia, Kan. Greg Dale/Guardian The 16 UCSD athletes heading to the NCAA Division-II Track and Field championships in Emporia, Kan., represent the largest group of Triton athletes ever to compete in the event. Many of them qualified for the championships at the Occidental Invitational on May 13. “It exceeded all expectations, with women’s track finishing first and men’s track second this season,” head coach Tony Salerno said. UCSD sent fewer than a quarter of its athletes to Occidental, but still posted six standout performances that earned NCAA provisional qualifying times. Senior Jon Patton improved his personal best time in the 400-meter hurdles with a mark of 51.49 seconds. Freshman Daniel Anderson had his best time all year in the 800 at 1:52.73, an NCAA provisional qualifying time. Also, senior Mike Cunningham made a great effort in the 400, as his mark of 48.00 seconds was a provisional time and the second fastest in school history. Greg Dale/Guardian The UCSD track and field teams earned six NCAA Division-II provisional qualifying times at the the Occidental Invitational, held on May 13. Including the six new marks, the Tritons will be sending 16 competitors to the NCAA Championsips on May 25 through 27. The UCSD men’s 4×400 squad met an NCAA provisional qualifying time with 3:13.73, and became the holders of a new school record. It won its race by nearly four full seconds, blowing away the competition. On the women’s side, senior Mimi Hodgins finished sixth in the 800, posting an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 2:11.98. The 4×400 relay team also had success, winning its race with a time of 3:49.03. “They feel real good, the women competed really well,” said Salerno. “They are confident as they have ever been.” The Tritons could use the confidence heading into the D-II championships, which will include 16 Tritons. Approximately 620 student-athletes qualified for the championships by reaching the automatic and provisional standards for each event, meaning the 16 UCSD athletes will have plenty of competition. The Tritons will participate in four of the men’s events and nine on the women’s side. “The average number of athletes in the D-II championship is about two per school, so we’ll have one of the bigger groups in the competition,” Salerno said. All four athletes participating in the men’s events are seniors, including Brad Lubuit, who enters with the 16th-best mark in the nation in javelin at 200 feet. Senior Carl Lostrom will compete for the second-straight year in the 3,000 steeplechase. He has recorded the ninth-fastest mark in D-II this season with his time of 9:10.97. Patton and Cunningham will both run in the 400 hurdles as they enter the race with the eighth and 11th-fastest times in the country, respectively. Patton will also compete in the 110 high hurdles. The 12 Tritons competing on the women’s side will be participating in nine events. After a strong showing in the last competition, senior Sandy Schaefer, junior Elisa Holiday, sophomore Amber Green and freshman Katie Skorupa have a chance to win the 4×400 title. They recently set a school record with a qualifying time of 3:48.39, which is the 11th-fastest in the country this year. Freshmen Jillian Sola and Sarah Hendy will both compete in the discus for the Tritons. Sola’s mark of 154 feet, 3/4 inches ranks sixth in the nation, but she will look to improve at nationals. Senior Briana Hinga enters the javelin competition as a favorite, ranked the No. 1 thrower in the country this year after her recent throw of 151 feet, 1 1/2 inches. Hodgins will go for the win in the 800, the same event in which she placed second at last year’s national championship meet. Sophomore Diane Dunn has the eighth-fastest time in the 1,500 this year at 4:33.34, and will also put up a fight to bring home a national title. Sophomore Emily McGregor will run in the 5,000 race, qualifying with a mark of 17:25.47. Sophomore Laiah Blue will be the only female athlete to compete in two events for UCSD. She will run in both the 100 and 400 hurdles. She set a school record in the 100 hurdles with her time of 13.87 earlier this year, while her mark of 61.93 seconds in the 400 hurdles is the 20th-fastest time in D-II this season. “We expect to compete well,” Salerno said. “Any time you’re in the top 10 in the nation, you have a chance to win.” The Tritons will try their chances against the nation’s best May 25-27. ...

Track and Field Shatters Four School Records at Triton Invitational

In their final campaign before the California Collegiate Athletic Association conference track and field championships, the UCSD teams thrived among a throng of top-tier college athletes and world-class track stars at the Triton Invitational on April 22 and 23. GREG DALE/Guardian Senior Mike Cunningham placed first in the 400-meter dash and fifth in the 400 hurdles and was part of the men’s 4×400 relay team, which set a new UCSD record on April 22. During the two-day affair, the Triton contingent showed its strength against Division-I powers such as San Diego State University and UC Riverside, as well as several Olympic hopefuls and medalists. Despite the intimidating competition, UCSD prevailed, setting four school records and achieving many national qualifying marks. In both the men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relay, UCSD set new school marks, with the men finishing first with a time of 3 minutes, 13.94 seconds, and the women placing third in 3:48.39. The men’s squad, composed of seniors Matt Borzage, Jon Patton and Mike Cunningham and sophomore Todd Bettisworth, edged out Cal State Northridge by almost 1.5 seconds and outran Cal State Fullerton by almost six seconds. In individual competition, freshman sensation Catherine Strouse set a new Triton record in the women’s 3,000 steeplechase, finishing a respectable fourth overall with a time of 11:20.94. Perhaps the men’s most impressive performance came in the 200 from Patton, who improved his previous school record of 21.84 seconds to 21.81 seconds and placed fourth in the race. Patton also showed his talent in the 110 hurdles, finishing fifth with a time of 14.81. Patton’s standout performances thoroughly pleased head coach Tony Salerno, who expects Patton’s strengths to shine in the conference championship. “[Patton is] a senior that’s come alive,” Salerno said. “He has a great deal of talent in the 200 and that’s the place where we may use him in addition to his best event, the 400 meters.” The Tritons also received exceptional performances in the women’s 100 and 400 hurdles from sophomore Laiah Blue, who finished second and fourth with times of 14.14 and 1:02, respectively. Blue’s 100 time was her second-best personal finish, and should rank her highly going into nationals. Salerno said that Blue’s showing proves that she can easily improve on her 10th-place finish at last year’s national championships, and he did not discount the possibility that Blue could win the title. “[Blue] definitely has a chance at winning [the national title] if everything goes well,” Salerno said. “If you look at the results, she’s ahead of a few of the world-class runners and all of the D-I runners.” The successful outing allowed the Tritons to test their skills against top opponents, and it served as a practice run for the equally daunting CCAA conference championships, in which the Triton men placed third and the women captured the title last year. Expectations are running high in the Triton camp, as the teams hope to duplicate their previous successes. According to Salerno, the CCCA is arguably the strongest D-II conference in the nation. “Five of our conference teams on the men’s and women’s sides finished in the top 25 nationally last year,” Salerno said. “We’re in pretty good company, and these teams can do quite a bit to damage us.” Nonetheless, the team feels that the Triton Invitational helped it adequately prepare for the upcoming battle. “We’re in a fortunate situation where we can test our people against some of the best in the world.” Salerno said. “It gives us a lot of confidence that we can be successful, and I think we’re feeling pretty good right now.” UCSD will host the CCAA conference championships May 4 through 6, and the familiar surroundings should prove to be beneficial for the the Tritons. Following the championships, the Tritons will hone their skills at the Occidental Invitational on May 13, and then head to Emporia, Kan., for the NCAA Division-II National Championships. ...

Four Top finishes for Track and field at UCLA

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. Kunal Sukhija/Guardian 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. ...

Track and field sends nine to NCAA Nationals

The UCSD men’s and women’s track and field teams finished their regular season on May 14 at the Claremont Classic, held at Burns Track and Field complex in Claremont, Calif. Junior Mimi Hodgins and freshman Laiah Blue posted school records in the 800-meter race and 100-meter hurdles, respectively, while senior Kendra Canape finished first in the women’s high jump and junior Carl Lostrom topped his competition to win the men’s steeplechase. Greg Dale Another hurdle: During the Claremont Classic, Hodgins set a new school record in the 800 race. Despite finishing third overall, Hodgins was able to break her own school record, which she had set earlier in the year, and posted a time of 2 minutes, 10.91 seconds. “It’s nice to know I’m still PR-ing,” Hodgins said. “I think I have a lot more left in me, and my coach agrees, so it’s a good feeling to have going into Nationals.” On May 16, nine UCSD track and field athletes found out that their season was not over. For the women, Hodgins, Blue, Canape, senior Lindsay Stalker, and freshmen Emily McGregor and Whitney Johnson will be representing the Tritons at the NCAA Track and Field Championships. Lostrom, junior Mike Cunningham and senior Kevin Beeman made the cut from the men’s squad. Despite qualifying in the 800, the 1500 and the 5000 events, Hodgins will only compete in the 800 at Nationals. “I’m ranked No. 3 in the 800, and my goal is to win that event,” she said. “I feel that in order to achieve that goal, I need to focus on one event. “ Stalker took fourth place in the 800 run at Claremont, finishing at 2:11.20. Stalker will compete in the 800 run and the 1500 run at Nationals. She is ranked fourth in the 800, just behind Hodgins, and eighth in the 1500. Blue finished the 100 hurdles in 14.11 seconds, tying the school record set during the 2004 season by Meredith Perry. The time is an automatic qualification for the NCAA Championships; she will be one of two freshmen in the nation to compete in the 100 hurdles. Sophomore Elisa Holiday took second in the long jump with a mark of 5.72 meters, then secured a third-place finish in the 200 dash with a time of 24.62. In the 1500 run, Hodgins and freshman Dianne Dunn finished fifth and seventh, respectively. Canape took first in the high jump competition with her mark of 1.63 meters. Canape used the weekend’s competition as a warmup for Nationals. For the high-jump event, each meet has its own minimum starting height. Normally, the minimum starting height is 4 feet 8 inches, but Canape usually starts around 5-2. At Nationals, the starting height is 5-4, meaning there is no warm-up jump. “You have to be on it right away,” Canape said. The competition for the women’s high jump will be tight at Nationals. Canape is seeded 12th with her best mark of 5 feet 7.75 inches, but points out that the majority of the other competitors are within an inch and a half of that mark. “Considering that the bar goes up two inches after every jump, I’m right in the thick of it,” she said. “What I’m really excited about is that I’ve been jumping consistently close to that height all season, while a lot of the other girls have only jumped it once.” For the men, Lostrom won the 3000 steeplechase with a time of 9:24.2. While the time was 15 seconds off his personal best, Lostrom was not worried. “This race was a lot more like a workout than a race,” he said. “I’m getting ready for Nationals, and I’m working on different techniques.” Lostrom focused on the hurdles and the lap splits during this weekend’s event, and was happy with the way he raced. “The things I was working on came out well. I found out this works, this doesn’t work,” he said. “And in terms of looking towardnationals, I’m happy with how it came out.” When asked about Nationals, Lostrom said his goal was to race throughout the entire event. “I want to be in the thick of it, and duke it out with the other guys,” he said. “I’m not wholly concerned with a certain time or finish. I want those guys to say, ‘Hey, that San Diego guy put on a good fight.’” Cunningham finished in fourth place in the 110 hurdles, finishing the race in which he has already qualified for Nationals in 14.48 seconds. Cunningham also qualified in the 400 hurdles for Nationals. His goal for Nationals is to race a low 51-second 400 hurdles and make All-American, which means he will have to finish among the top eight. “I hate the 400-meter hurdles with a passion,” he said. “But it’s my focus because I’m better at it. The good thing this year is that there’s one guy who’s way ahead of everybody, but everyone else is really close, like within half a second or so. My main goal is to get second, since the race is wide open.” Junior teammate Jon Patton, a junior, took fourth in the 400 hurdles with a time of 53.33 seconds. In the jumping events, senior Kevin Beeman took second place in the men’s high jump with his mark of 2.10 meters. For Nationals, Beeman is seeded 10th in the high-jump event. The NCAA National Championships will take place in Abilene, Texas, from May 26 through May 28. ...