Seven athletes compete at track championships

    UCSD track and field sent seven athletes to Texas for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Championships at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, with the women’s team finishing tied for 32nd overall and the men’s team tied for 44th.

    Guardian file photo

    Despite bringing only seven athletes in seven events, five Tritons won All-America honors (awarded to the top eight finishers in each event). In comparison, among the most sizable squads in Texas was men’s team winner and women’s third-place finisher Abilene Christian University of Texas, which sent 33 athletes in 27 events, in addition to its relay teams, to the meet.

    “”The overall rankings were a little misleading,”” said head coach Tony Salerno. “”A couple of points would have moved us up to 10th place. So the team title doesn’t mean a lot unless you have the numbers to compete.””

    The women’s team sent five athletes: Audrey Sung in the 3,000 meters, Clara Wilson in the 400-meter low hurdles, Megan Bergin in the hammer throw, Sara Allsup in the discus and Minnie Hernandez in the shot put.

    The men sent representatives Rob Ewanio and Jon Wong in the shot put and 1,500 meters, respectively.

    Ewanio, who broke his own school record twice this season, headed into San Angelo as the California Collegiate Athletic Association champion and was seeded second in the nation, just behind Taras Rohde of California State University, Los Angeles, who he defeated at the conference championships to defend his title.

    On May 23, day one of competition, Wilson finished fourth in her heat with a time of 62.72 in the 400-meter low hurdles, but failed to qualify for the finals. Wilson was seeded 16th based on her 62.52 set at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational on April 19.

    “”She ran 62.72 in a pretty strong wind — clearly the best race of her life,”” Salerno said. “”She put it together. For her first time competing at the meet, that’s pretty exciting.””

    Bergin, the 14th seeded thrower heading in, posted a throw of 166 feet to finish eighth in the women’s hammer throw, scoring one point for the team total hot on the heels of her school-record 166-11 at conference championships. Most importantly, Bergin achieved the All-America status she had been hoping for heading into the meet.

    Bergin’s one point tied the women’s team with Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg University for 12th place at the end of the first day’s competition.

    “”It’s totally exciting and I feel great about it,”” Bergin said. “”It was a really tight field, though — if you looked at the seedings, we were all two feet within each other, so I had a sense of confidence that really helped.””

    On the men’s side, Wong finished seventh in his heat with a time of 3:57.58, but failed to advance to the finals after he qualified with a time of 3:52.22, set at the Benny Brown Invitational at Cal State Fullerton on May 9.

    “”He came in ranked 19th, so he would have really had to put something together,”” Salerno said. “”It’s a tactical race, so the time doesn’t really reflect how well he ran.””

    On the second day of competition, Sung scored four points for the team as a result of her fifth-place finish in the 3,000 meters with a mark of 10:10.68, an improvement over last year’s sixth-place finish in the same event. Sung, now a two-time All-American in the 3,000 meters, headed into Friday’s competition as the sixth seed and the CCAA runner-up.

    In the other action of the day for the Tritons, seventh-seeded Allsup capped her season with an eighth-place finish and All-America honor in the discus, throwing a distance of 147-6. Allsup qualified with her 155-2 mark at the UCSD Collegiate Invitational on April 13.

    The women’s team, which finished 50th last year, ended the day with six points in a seven-way tie for 18th place overall with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Tarleton State, St. Augustine’s, Southern Connecticut, North Dakota and Seattle Pacific. The men’s team, which finished 29th last year, remained off the leader board with no points.

    The third and final day of competition saw Ewanio attempting to score points for the men’s team, which he did as result of his sixth-place finish. But, both Ewanio and Salerno admit that the outcome may have been more favorable if Mother Nature hadn’t interfered. Ewanio had thrown 57 feet in the preliminary round to qualify him for the final round. In the finals, Ewanio was warming up just as the first two throwers finished their tosses.

    When Ewanio was set to throw, the officials called the athletes indoors because of a storm warning. After approximately an hour, they ended the warning and the competitors were let outside, only to be recalled minutes later. When the meet finally resumed, only one thrower improved on his preliminary mark, perhaps due to the stoppage, which halted any momentum the athletes had, according to Salerno.

    Ewanio’s best throw of 57 1/4 was off the 60-4 1/2 he recorded at conference championships to qualify him, but he continued his winning ways head-to-head against Rohde, who finished seventh with a mark of 56-10 3/4. Ewanio, who placed fifth last year, earned three points to tie UCSD with Humboldt State and Western Oregon, with Abilene Christian narrowly defeating St. Augustine’s for the team title 91-88.

    “”I was a little disappointed,”” Ewanio said. “”I threw three feet under my [personal record], but the conditions were bad because they stopped us in the middle of throwing because a storm was coming in. I was all ready to throw but they said ‘we’re going to stop for a while.’ Other than that, I was happy — a two-time All-American, which is pretty good.””

    Despite the turn of events, Ewanio said he is not making any excuses for himself.

    “”Going in, I was hoping to get in the top three,”” Ewanio said. “”There was a possibility I could have gotten first place, but the guy who won [Manuel Brandeborn of Abilene Christian] ended up throwing more than my PR. So if I would have thrown my best, I still would have taken second.””

    Hernandez, who qualified for the shot put at the conference championships in the last opportunity of the season, finished her season on another high note, coming in as the 14th seed in the shot put but placing eighth on her second throw of the day.

    Her mark of 45-3 3/4 led to her first All-America title. Hernandez’s one point was the last scoring for the women’s team, whose seven team points tied it with Ferris State of Michigan. St. Augustine’s nipped North Dakota State to win the team title 54-53.

    Salerno said seniors Bergin, Ewanio and Wong, along with Mark Gomez of the pole vault, who narrowly missed a berth to nationals, will be the biggest losses for the squad next year.

    However, the team retains an optimistic outlook because of the team’s overall youth and a solid incoming group.

    “”We don’t lose too much else [other than Bergin on the women’s side],”” Salerno said. “”We’re going to gain a lot more than we lose. We should be significantly better on the women’s side. [The returning athletes] will have maturity and we have a very good recruiting class. On the men’s side, we should be a little bit better. We’ll have younger guys [coming in], but you never know [about them]. At this point two years ago, we didn’t know Rob Ewanio was coming to UCSD.””

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