Track and field qualifies four

    UCSD track and field, despite competing amid over 2,000 Olympian, professional and top-level collegiate athletes, turned in several excellent performances at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational at Claremont College on Friday.

    The meet, which works in conjunction with the concurrent Mt. San Antonio Relays at Mt. San Antonio College, featured several American and international Olympian, professional club and Division I collegiate athletes. Among the high-profile collegiate programs represented were Notre Dame, Stanford, Michigan, Oregon, UCLA and Wisconsin.

    “”It was pretty amazing,”” said head coach Tony Salerno. “”You wouldn’t think that with a little school like [Claremont], but it was in conjunction with the [Mt. SAC Relays], and that was huge. It was pretty much the whole nation and part of the world that was in the area for track and field.””

    UCSD took about two-thirds of the complete team to the nonscoring meet, with an emphasis on the track events, according to Salerno.

    The coaching staff opted to rest several of the field athletes, including the Tritons’ three National Collegiate Athletic Association qualifiers in the throwing events: Rob Ewanio in the men’s shot put, Sara Allsup in the women’s discus, and Megan Bergin in the women’s hammer throw.

    Coupled with the competitive field, Salerno said the team still managed to post several outstanding individual performances, including four National Collegiate Athletic Association qualifying marks.

    “”I don’t know if too many of our kids are intimidated,”” Salerno said. “”Our kids are used to going to meets [like this]. In track and field, the nature of the sport [is that] you can see anybody there, from Division III athletes to Olympians. It’s really fortunate for us to have a meet like this and then go to national-level competitions, because we’re used to the high level of competition.””

    Jon Wong improved on his NCAA qualification time with a 3:52.22 in the 1,500-meter run, the seventh best in the nation and the best mark in the California Collegiate Athletic Association this year. More impressively, it was in a field that included 2000 Olympian and three-time NCAA champion, Gabe Jennings of Stanford University, former NCAA champion Clyde Colenso of South Africa and meet record-holder Brandon Strong of Arizona State University.

    Audrey Sung, a 2001 All-American in the 3,000 meters, added another NCAA bid to her resume to go along with her qualifications in the 3,000 and 5,000. She posted a 4:40.89 in the 1,500-meter run for UCSD.

    Julian Nahan ran the fourth-best 3,000 meter steeplechase in UCSD history with a time of 9:22.33 — good enough to earn him a provisional qualification bid to the NCAA finals. The fourth bid came when Clara Wilson ran a qualifying performance in the 400-meter hurdles with a mark of 62.52, the best mark in the CCAA this year, eighth-best in the country and the third-fastest in school history.

    “”[Julian] had a key performance,”” Salerno said. “”It was a new event for him, but we think he’s found a home. [Wilson] had a huge breakthrough in the hurdles. She went from ‘OK, pretty good’ to top in the country, and that’s a big deal.””

    Coming off its successful weekend at Pomona-Pitzer, the squad returns home for what Salerno calls one of the most elite competitions of the year: the UCSD Triton Invitational. The two-day event starts April 26 and will feature complete teams from University of Southern California and UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Long Beach, SDSU and others.

    “”We really are [excited],”” Salerno said. “”The opportunity to have this sequence of meets where we’re home every other weekend at the end of the season is ideal. This invitational is going to be very competitive.””

    Most notably, however, the meet will also include several high-profile competitors, including shot put world champion John Godina of the United States and defending NCAA Division I 100-meter champion Angela Williams of USC.

    “”It’ll be extremely stacked,”” Salerno said. “”The top 10 in both [discus and shot put] will be Olympic athletes from all over the world. Our discus field is world renowned — we have some of the top guys in the world. We have guys of that caliber, and then UCLA, who is the top throwing team in the country. But compared to the other guys, they’ll look like children, and that gives you some perspective about the level of world-class competition. This will be the top-level competition in the San Diego area this year, so it’ll be quite a show.””

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