UCSD Takes Eighth at Nationals

    When the dust finally settled from this weekend’s Track and Field National Championships, the UCSD women’s team had completed the best season in school history. The Tritons placed eighth overall at the Division II Championships held in Charlotte, N.C., and almost all of the 12 women who participated in the meet won honors as All-Americans.

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian
    Junior Laiah Blue was one of a record 12 UCSD women that qualified for the Division II National Championships. Blue led the Tritons to a program-best eighth-place finish with points in the 100- and 400-meter races and was a part of the sixth place 4 x 100 meter relay team.

    The previous best finish for the UCSD track program was in 2005, when the team finished 13th. This year’s meet hosted 58 schools, making the Triton’s breach of the top-10 all the more impressive.

    Junior jumper Whitney Johnson understands the importance of her team’s monumental victory.

    “”This is a very important win to me, the team and the school because we have brought UCSD track and field into the limelight,”” Johnson said. “”We have proven that we are one of the best teams in the nation. I believe this win has earned us more respect from all teams across the nation, and next year they will be expecting us to be an even bigger threat.””

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian
    While the men’s track and field team did not manage to send any team members to the D-II National Championships, they did pull off a fifth-place finish at the CCAA Championships and will return plenty of talented young runners to go along with top recruits.

    One of the reasons for UCSD’s success this year was the large contingent representing the Tritons at nationals. The 12 athletes were the largest number in school history and an indicator of the 2007 team’s depth.

    Junior runner Diane Dunn knows that such a strong support group 3,000 miles from home gave the Tritons a little extra push.

    “”Having so many of us there really helped us step up to the competition, knowing we all had so much support behind us and so many people cheering for us,”” Dunn said.

    Heading into the first day of the championships on May 24, the Tritons knew they were going to have their work cut out for them. Thanks to Johnson, who scored six points for UCSD with her distance of 19 feet 3.25 inches in the long jump – good enough for third place – the team was able to stake themselves to an eighth-place position. Also on the opening day, the 4 x 100 meter relay team, comprised of junior Laiah Blue, sophomore Katie Skorupa, freshman Christine Merrill and junior Amber Green, finished sixth in the preliminaries.

    Day two of nationals proved to be the best for the Tritons – by the end of the day on May 25, UCSD held the fourth-best point total at the meet. Dunn came up big, getting six points for her third place in the 3,000-meter race with her time of 9 minutes 56.02 seconds. Along with Dunn, Johnson once again helped her team, this time placing fifth in the triple jump with her leap of 40 feet 11.50 inches.

    Though Johnson felt that the stage of the national championships was extremely exciting, but that the team did not let the pressure affect their game.

    “”It definitely felt different being out on the track at the national meet, as compared to any other meet,”” Johnson said. “”We knew that the meet was big, the competition was big, but we were part of it and had just as good a chance to earn All-American honors as any other athlete there.””

    On the final day of the championships, it was Blue who paced the Tritons, gaining points with her times of 13.66 seconds for third place in the 100-meter race and and 60.18 seconds for seventh place in the 400-meter race. Along with her sprint times, Blue also contributed by running on the relay team that finished sixth overall in the final heat. Junior runner Emily McGregor earned her team two more points by running the 3,000-meter in 17:18.72, a time that earned her a fifth-place finish.

    For senior thrower Torrey Trust, who placed 18th in the nation in the javelin with her throw of 29.35 meters, being on the record-setting 2007 team was the perfect way to bring her UCSD career to a close.

    “”I was the only senior on the trip to nationals, and it was a fantastic way to end my career,”” Trust said. “”We had tons of fun competing, representing UCSD and placing so high. I was somewhat surprised [by the results], but knew that our team was amazing going in, and I was really hoping from the beginning that we’d be able to break into the top 10. The closeness and the spiritedness of the team really pushed everyone in every competition.””

    With such a young, yet experienced team returning for next season, head coach Tony Salerno, who was named the D-II West Region Coach of the Year, can look forward to returning to nationals next year with even higher hopes, higher expectations and higher results.

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