UCSD will face tough competition on the track

    The UCSD men¹s and women¹s track and field teams plan to race to victory in 2004, leaving many challenging competitors in the dust, just as it has in the past few years.

    Both teams got strength through a successful recruiting drive that revitalized the UCSD men¹s and women¹s track teams, and despite a few key losses to graduation, the season¹s prospects look bright.

    Expectations have been raised because UC Davis was moved to Division I, a school that was historically the obstacle to UCSD¹s plans for regional domination and a chance at nationals.

    “”UC Davis has moved to Division I now, so a win is the objective on the women¹s side in particular. Our conference is the strongest in Division II track and field, however, so we will have to see what the other schools have this year,”” head coach Tony Salerno said.

    Both squads had a difficult time at the conference championship meet last year, but Salerno forecasts top three finishes for both teams this season.

    Last year, the women¹s team finished the season ranked second, while the men placed 16th in the national power rankings. In 2002, the women¹s team was narrowly beaten by UC Davis, but retained its superiority by finishing ahead of Chico State.

    Both men¹s and womenas teams have a keen eye focused on a variety of opponents, including traditional archrival Chico State.

    “”Chico is the team to beat on the men’s side in our conference as I stated above, but UCSB, UCI and Davis are teams we consider rivals every bit as much as our Division II conference opponents,”” Salerno said.

    Both squads are intent on besting UCSD’s sister schools, including UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara.

    “”We actually compete against Irvine and Santa Barbara more often than our Division II conference schools. We actually expect to see more of Davis now that they are a Division I program than we did when they were in our conference,”” Salerno said.

    Although a few outstanding track athletes were lost to graduation last year, such as distance superstar All-American Audrey Sung, many veteran standouts remain to complement the relatively young squads. Roughly 30 athletes are returning to support each respective team.

    “”On the men’s side, seniors John Morrison and Devin Callister should be some of our top placers in the distances,”” Salerno said.

    The women’s side has top returning athletes to help fuel their team.

    “”Our top returning athlete is senior shot/hammer thrower Sagrario Hernandez. She is the top returning shot-putter in Division II and is a three-time All-American for us,”” Salerno said.

    Hernandez, a distinguished and critical centerpiece, has always been intent on challenging herself and in focusing the team on contending against the most formidable foes.

    Several other competitors are expected to bring out the best in their events, particularly in the hurdles.

    “”Hurdler Mikey Cunningham had a great freshman year last year, including a school record and an NCAA national qualifying mark,”” Salerno said.

    Returning sophomore short sprinters CJ Lawrence and Peiman Lahsaei and seasoned sophomore long sprinter Matt Horner are looking to be standouts on an exceptionally well-developed squad.

    Great depth and talent are also evident in the composition of the discus and pole vault events.

    “”Senior discus thrower Abel Aramburo is on his way to a great season after reaching an NCAA qualifying mark last year,”” Salerno said. “”Senior Pat Ruttinger has a very good chance of qualifying for nationals [in the pole vault], and a very talented young sprint squad last year will only be better this year.””

    A number of fresh recruits show promise in culling strong scores for the Tritons, and will also help spice up each team’s performance.

    Freshmen sprinters Elisa Holiday and Alex Hesselgesser and junior transfer Kevin Beeman will all add to the progression of each their respective track squads.

    “”We always keep our eyes on CCAA Championships in May. We have been [working toward championships] since October, so it is pretty exciting to actually have some competition on the horizon,”” Salerno said.

    The first meet of several in the upcoming season will be the UC San Diego Blue-Gold Alumni Meet, held on Feb. 14 at 10 a.m. at UCSD. The Tritons’ first regular season meet is the Pomona-Pitzer All-Comers meet on Feb. 21 in Claremont, Calif.

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