Tritons set multiple records in meet

UCSD track and field held its own against a highly competitive field at the two-day UCSD Open on Friday and Saturday, where history was made with a new American record in the women’s discus. While they were at it, they rewrote a few of the school’s record books in the team’s final meet of the regular season.

Guardian file photo

The Tritons played host to over 20 collegiate teams, including full squads from Division I powerhouses University of Southern California and UCLA and representatives from Stanford University and UC Berkeley. But it was the presence of several world-class and professional club competitors that set the tone for the meet.

“”[It was] a great meet overall,”” head coach Tony Salerno said. “”It was stunning. The caliber of competition was so high — well above what we’re going to see at nationals.””

Most eyes were on Olympian Suzy Powell, who threw herself into the spotlight with an American-record 227’10” in the women’s discus, shattering the 216’10” mark previously set by Carol Cady in 1986. Powell, currently competing for Asics, bested her performance of 214’10” earlier this month, the best American performance this year until now.

On the local front, Rob Ewanio made waves by improving his UCSD record in the men’s shot put with his throw of 58’8” — over a foot further than his previous effort. His record-setting performance was still only good enough for ninth place on the day, but no one could blame him in a field that featured such throwers as shot put world champion John Godina, who won the competition, national third-place United States finisher John Davis and former Pac-10 runner-up Van Mounts. The shot put competition, like most of the other events, was filled with top-flight athletes with experience on the Division I, national and world levels.

“”It’s hard to understate it, really,”” Salerno said. “”We had some great performances. Rob’s performance in the shot was exceptional — a huge improvement for him. He was actually the worst competitor in the invitational part, but he’s competing in the invitational portion, throws a PR, and right after him is John Godina, world champion, who throws 69′, 10 feet further than Rob — and that’s exceptional.””

Julie Pope and Lillian Gardiner took second and fourth, respectively, in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. Pope’s 11:37.86 and Gardiner’s 11:48.92 were also good enough for the second- and third-best marks in school history.

Other notable performances were turned in by Clara Wilson, who took third in the women’s long jump and improved on her fourth-best school jump with a mark of 18’02.5”, and Audrey Sung and Kathy Read, who took third and fourth in the women’s 3,000 meters, respectively.

Salerno said that though it isn’t every day that the team gets to compete against world champions, the focus was still on tuning up for the CCAA Championships in two weeks.

“”For [the coaches], it’s really about them and preparing for conference championships,”” Salerno said. “”And even though we’re seeing some of the top people in the nation, we’re focused on us and conference championships. On a broader level, though, it’s significant to have our meet as one of the top meets in the country.””

The meet, one of the most high-profile events of the season in the San Diego area, will certainly gain even more prominence, especially with Powell’s record-breaking performance in the discus, the fields of Olympian competitors and the presence of arguably two of the strongest track and field programs in the country: USC and UCLA.

“”It’s a real good thing for the school — we had a couple of thousand people overall during the course of the day,”” Salerno said. “”It’s nice to see UCSD on the map, and this meet has done a lot to help that. It’s very gratifying to sit in the office and have USC call and Stanford call and want to bring athletes.””

With the regular season now over, the Tritons look to the CCAA Championships at UCSD on May 10 and May 11, which will also be the team’s last opportunity to qualify any additional athletes for the NCAA Division II Championships in San Angelo, Texas at the end of the month. According to Salerno, the road to the conference title will probably go through the favorite, Division II juggernaut UC Davis, and also possibly Chico State University, which may give Davis a scare in the future.

“”We have just got to compete and show that we can do that, with the level of talent we have,”” Salerno said. “”Certainly when you look at the overall picture, some of the meets we’ve seen the past few weeks have told our kids that the Division II [National Championship] meet is really within their level. Overall, the men’s team is a little banged up, and we may struggle because of injuries. The women’s team looks good overall — very balanced, lots of scorers. We’re hoping things go well and we can be in the top three in the conference.””