Track Graduates Large Class

    The UCSD track and field teams will be a lot lighter after losing 11 members to graduation this month.

    The men’s team will lose James Nielsen, Matt DeFord, Nate Garcia, Joe Basaje, Kennon Kwok and Wale’ Olagunju.

    On the women’s side, Amie Wu, Meghan Scott, Erin Masters, Nicole Johnson and Carrie Everstein are departing.

    Nielsen is unquestionably the top athlete of this group. He was unstoppable in long-distance running, dominating the 1,500-meter, 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter runs.

    “”He was Superman in every way, from leadership to athletics to academics,”” said track and field head coach Tony Salerno. “”He was a real rare one. He’s obviously highly intelligent. It’s difficult to miss that.””

    DeFord, affectionately known as Yogi, was a hammer thrower and more than just a member of the track and field team. He was a school leader and always involved in many sides of campus life.

    “”What event did you not see Yogi at?”” Salerno said. “”I could not imagine seeing us in Division II without Yogi. He’s a tireless worker. He sacrificed his own success in athletics for the greater good. I could not speak highly enough of him.””

    Garcia paled only to Nielsen in the long distances, running the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters and holding his own against the competition.

    “”He’s a great competitor,”” Salerno said. “”He brought leadership and maturity. Nate is one of the people we called upon for some unity.””

    Basaje was a junior college transfer who competed in relays and the 400-meter run.

    “”He’s a tremendously hard worker,”” Salerno said.

    Kwok was a top-notch long jumper for the Tritons.

    “”He was one of our senior captains,”” Salerno said. “”He really helped bring the team together.””

    Olagunju anchored the 400-meter relay team and sometimes ran in the third position.

    “”He was a tremendous performer,”” Salerno said. “”You look for someone who’s fast. He’s a real competitor.””

    Wu was one of the stars of the women’s team. She was unstoppable in long-distance events.

    “”She’s an outstanding performer in cross country and in track,”” Salerno said. “”She’s very mature and extremely committed. Her performance helped pull other people along. She’s also one of the top academic people.””

    Scott was also one of the top performers for the Triton track team. Last year, she competed in 3,000-meter runs. This year — the first year that women competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase — Scott ended up going to nationals.

    “”She’s a talented athlete,”” Salerno said. “”[Running the steeplechase] says a lot about her.””

    Masters was a sprinter for the Tritons and competed in 200- through 800-meter events.

    “”She’s amazingly committed,”” Salerno said. “”She laid it out on the line.””

    Johnson was with the team three years and established herself in the high jump.

    “”She was one of our top scorers in the high jump,”” Salerno said.

    Everstein competed in the 400 and always gave it her all.

    “”She’s very committed,”” Salerno said. “”She laid it out on the line. She did everything she could with what she had. She was very solid.””

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