UCSD Continues Strong Season in Fresno

    The men’s track and field team finished eighth overall at the prestigious Cal/Nevada Meet on March 28. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian)

    TRACK & FIELD — With about half of the 2008 season over,
    the UCSD track and field team has cemented itself as the top Division-II
    program in the nation and looks poised to make a strong run at the national
    championship in late May. After a finals-induced, two-week hiatus from
    competition, the Tritons traveled to Fresno on March 28 for the Cal/Nevada
    Meet, a prestigious competition that attracts some of the top schools on the
    West Coast. UCSD’s phenomenal early season results continued at the meet, as
    the women’s team took the top Division-II honors and finished fifth overall
    while the men placed eighth.

    Tony Salerno, head coach of the men’s team, has grown
    accustomed to his squad’s success the past couple of seasons and credits his
    athletes’ motivation and mindset for their ability to compete against some of
    the top performers in the country.

    “We used to be surprised when we would show up and do real
    well at the big meets,” Salerno
    said. “We had a lot of great individual performances but what all the coaches
    were most happy with was the mentality of the team. Our athletes on both sides
    were absolutely fearless and really did not care who was in the other uniform,
    be it UCLA, Santa Barbara or Point
    Loma. I think that a lot of athletes carry the stigma of being Division-II
    athletes, but our guys just go out and compete.”

    Along with an outstanding team effort, two Tritons broke
    all-time school records at the Cal/Nevada Meet. Senior jumper Whitney Johnson
    toppled her own school record with a leap of 42’02”, a whole foot longer than
    her previous personal record. Johnson, who was selected as the California
    Collegiate Athletics Association Player of the Week, fell to the ground with
    disbelief when she saw her mark on the scoreboard. The quality of competition
    was such that Johnson’s jump did not get her first place, as San Diego State
    University’s All-American Decontee Kaye took the top spot.

    The second UCSD record to be broken was in the women’s pole
    vault, where senior Christina Sloyer posted a mark of 12’1.50”. Solid
    performances by sophomore jumper and hurdler Linda Rainwater, junior thrower
    Sarah Hendy and freshman jumper Stephanie LeFever all helped the Tritons rack
    up points on their way to their fifth-place finish.

    The women’s track and field team was the top D-II school and fifth best overall at the Cal/Nevada meet. (Erik Jepsen/Guardian)

    First-year women’s head coach Darcy Ahner said she cannot
    solely take credit for the team’s success, and instead chose to deflect all
    praise to her veteran leaders.

    “We have a little more depth everywhere on the roster and
    that counts for a lot,” Ahner said. “The women doing so well this year shows
    the great leadership on the team. We have a really mature group of captains
    that have made my job a lot easier.”

    The UCSD men also turned in one of their best performances
    of the year, easily placing in the top 10 out of the 20 competing teams. The
    Tritons were led by their experienced upperclassmen, as senior hurdler Khalil
    Hooper and senior distance runner Evan Tamura placed high in their respective
    events. The men were also helped by the performance of sophomore jumper Casey
    Ryan, who recently returned to the track and field team after the UCSD
    basketball season ended last month, took fourth in the high jump. The 2008
    season has seen the UCSD men win huge meets, and with each new win versus top
    competition, UCSD is entering new, albeit very welcomed, territory.

    “We want to get some of the guys into nationals,” Salerno
    said. “We don’t have any national qualifiers yet, so if we get a couple guys
    into nationals that would be great. The men’s team is going to try and step up
    into the top two in conference and keep building from there.”

    This season, which may very well prove to be the most
    successful in school history, has shown a UCSD program with unmatched team
    chemistry and a well balanced roster.

    “The level of intensity during our training has stepped up
    from last year,” junior hurdler Jennifer Albertson said. “When one person is
    having a really good day and takes off, everyone else kicks it up a notch as
    well. This combined with our drive to maintain our CCAA title, has pushed us to
    do amazing things so far this year. We also did get a lot of talented freshmen
    who will continue to get better and better every year. I don’t see the UCSD’s
    domination coming to an end any time soon.”

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