Men's and women's track part with seniors

After tying for 32nd overall on the women’s side and 44th on the men’s side at this year’s National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Championships, UCSD track and field will lose several key athletes on both teams.

Courtesy of UCSD Athletics

In all, the seniors will take with them three school records, three California Collegiate Athletic Associatio championships, three All-American honors and a handful of the top-10 marks in school history. Also, they will take with them their leadership and the experience of helping a Division III squad transition to the Division II level.

On the men’s side, the most notable loss is Rob Ewanio, the school record-holder in the shot put and a defending two-time CCAA champion in the same event. Ewanio went on a tear in the final weeks of the season, breaking his school record in consecutive meets heading into nationals, where he placed sixth after taking fifth his junior year.

“”You don’t find athletes like that. He’s really a Division I-quality athlete,”” said head coach Tony Salerno. “”He’ll go down as one of the top athletes in school history, and probably the sport as well.””

Courtesy of UCSD Athletics

According to Salerno, it was Ewanio’s fire that enabled him to be more successful.

“”Part of what he did was with his intensity,”” Salerno said. “”He’s really served notice to everyone to step it up a little bit, and they really have.””

Jon Wong leaves after finishing seventh in his heat at the Division II championships in the 1,500 meters. Wong is a two-time national qualifier in the 1,500 and owns several of the top times in school history in the 800 meters and 1,500 meters, including the record in the 1,500. Wong also placed second in the 1,500 as a junior at the CCAA meet when he lost by .02 seconds.

“”He was our top point-getter throughout the year and a real anchor for the team,”” Salerno said. “”It’s nice to have someone who’s a real [competitor] like Jon in the 800 and 1,500.””

Mark Gomez established himself as one of the top pole vaulters in school history. His personal record of 16 3/4 ties him for the fourth-best mark in UCSD history.

“”He’s been a steady and outstanding performer for four years,”” Salerno said. “”Just a real enjoyable person to have around, [and] real positive.””

Gomez narrowly missed a berth to the NCAA championships because his provisional qualification mark fell just short of where they drew the line at the top 16 marks.

“”It would have been great to see him go — he would have done real well there,”” Salerno said.

Another notable loss for the men is Steve Smith, who won the 800 meters at conference championships as a sophomore, a performance that ranked him in the top seven all-time school marks.

Among the other seniors leaving are Ryan Vincent, who placed third in the high jump at the CCAA meet this year, Phong Long, who finished third in the long jump and ninth in the triple jump, and Rui Almazon, who finished eighth in the triple jump.

The women’s team will lose Megan Bergin, who qualified for her first national championship meet this season in the hammer throw. There, the 14th-seeded Bergin played the role of spoiler, finishing eighth with a mark of 166 feet to earn her All-America honors for the first time.

“”We’ve got a little bit of a hole there in the hammer throw,”” Salerno said. “”It’s tough to find an athlete of her caliber. Certainly she was one of the athletes on the team that when competition came around, she was ready to step up, and she was doing that consistently.””

Bergin’s personal record of 166 11, set at this year’s CCAA championships, is also a school record. The throw was good enough for third place in the conference and was her NCAA provisional qualification mark.

Other seniors include Lynne Brinkman, who placed fourth in the javelin at conference championships this season, Catherine Nolan, who finished sixth in the same event, distance runner Mary Peate, sprinter Erin Newman and throwers Megan Steel and Katie Vater, though several of them may return next year because they have a year of eligibility left.

Salerno remains optimistic about putting a strong squad out next season despite key losses due to graduation.

“”We’ve got a good recruiting year on the men’s side — as good as we’ve ever had — and [I expect a] phenomenal year on the women’s side,”” Salerno said.

Though the team remains optimistic about next season, there is no denying that the impact this graduating class made this season was significant to both the team and to the track and field program overall.

“”They’ve been the people who really led us into Division II,”” Salerno said. “”And it’s the mentality of what we’ve been expecting of them having to line up against Division I schools like UCLA. That’s going to be their legacy.””