Two Tritons Set School Records

    Neither the ominous weather forecast nor the even more menacing list of competitors could keep the UCSD track and field team from proving to the rest of the nation that its Division II program can compete with the best that college sports has to offer. On April 21, UCSD hosted the annual Triton Invitational, a prestigious meet that drew over 1,700 participants from the top track programs across the country, along with some proven world-class athletes.

    The Tritons knew that this was going to be their toughest meet of the year, but also their best chance to establish their place within the track community. Junior jumper Whitney Johnson reiterated that fact prior to the meet.

    “”It can be intimidating going against some of these top athletes and the Olympians,”” Johnson said. “”But it makes us focus more and improve ourselves.””

    The Olympian that Johnson was referring to was Monique Henderson, part of the gold medal-winning 4×400 women’s relay team during the 2004 Athens summer games. Along with Henderson, the Triton Invitational played host to Suzy Powell, who just a week prior to the meet set the all-time U.S. record in the women’s discus throw. Rounding off the trio of famous competitors was James Lofton, now an assistant coach for the San Diego Chargers, who ran in the men’s 400-meter dash at the invitational. Since none of these three premier athletes are directly affiliated with a university or college, they could only participate in the invitational section of the events, and their scores were not timed or measured.

    Playing right next to these celebrated athletes made the Tritons step up their own game and set realistic goals that would allow them to succeed in the long run for the rest of the season.

    “”Regardless of who the competition is, I go into a meet trying to throw the farthest or I pick out the top thrower and try to beat them,”” senior thrower Torrey Trust said. “”This meet was a great chance for everyone to see what the top competition looks like and really try their hardest.””

    The Tritons showed that their best was good enough to hang with and even beat the best of college elites. On Saturday, UCSD set two new all-time school records, along with posting many solid NCAA-qualifying marks.

    The Tritons were paced by junior hurdler Laiah Blue, who got two first-place finishes on Saturday in the 400-meter hurdles and as part of the 1,600-meter relay team. Blue’s time in the hurdles, 59.87 seconds, shattered her existing school record set earlier in the year, and stands as one of only two D-II women to run sub-60 seconds in the event all year long.

    The only other Triton victory came from Johnson, whose distance of 40 feet, 6.75 inches in the triple jump, while not as far as her record-setting jump earlier in the season, was more than enough to beat other top collegiate athletes.

    On the men’s side, the top performance came from freshman distance runner Max Mullender, who won his heat in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9 minutes, 51.45 seconds. The Triton men also did well in the long jump, where freshman jumper Chris Yu and sophomore jumper Scott Tsuda finished fifth and seventh, respectively, with jumps of 21 feet, 10.25 inches and 21 feet, 8 inches.

    The meet was a great end to the regular season, and the Tritons now have two weeks off to rest up and prepare themselves for the California Collegiate Athletic Association Conference Championships hosted by San Francisco State University from May 3 through May 5.

    The Tritons have had a meet almost every weekend the entire season, so this time off before the conference championships will be a great chance for the team as a whole to regroup.

    “”I think everyone’s getting a little tired, so these breaks are really good,”” Johnson said. “”Any breaks that you can take are good; the fresher, the better.””

    Trust agreed with Johnson that the relative downtime would only help the team.

    “”I’m going to focus on fine-tuning my technique and preparing to feel more comfortable for a high-pressure meet like the conference championships,”” Trust said.

    Head coach Tony Salerno is having his players stop their regular weight-lifting program over the next two weeks in order to allow them to concentrate on their events and get ready for the big races at the conference championships, as well as the national championships that will follow.

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