After a week of academic exams, Cal track and field will be facing its first athletic final of the season.
The Bears will be taking the whole team to Stanford this weekend for the annual Pac-12 Championships, where they will face some of their toughest competitors, a few for the first time this season.
“Well, this is always a challenging meet for us,” said Cal head coach Tony Sandoval. “Because I think all the Pac-12 teams bring their A-game — this is bragging rights. We get to measure ourselves against the other schools. Some of them we compete against regularly; others we do not. This is the one time where we all get together and have a knock-down, drag-out competition.”
The Bears will be greatly aided by the return of star senior Ashtyn Davis. Also a safety for the football team, Davis has recently been busy with spring training and last competed with track and field at the Stanford Invitational in late March. He will be competing in the 110-meter hurdles, an event that brought him first-place success in the Pac-12 last year.
Cal can also expect a strong performance from sophomore McKay Johnson. Johnson has had a dominant run this season in the shot put, having placed first in every meet since the beginning of April. He heads into this championship ranked 10th in the nation.
Johnson is already one of Cal’s, and the nation’s, best throwers, and Pac-12 will be the perfect place for him to show out before NCAAs.
“They know that this is the beginning of the championship season,” Sandoval said. “Those who have had the preparation and ability to have had that experience, this is just the first of three legs of the championships.”
Joining Johnson in the throws, senior Peter Simon will give Cal a formidable duo in the shot. Simon won the Pac-12 Championships last year in the shot and has a strong senior season leading up to this weekend, often coming in second behind his sophomore teammate.
On the women’s side, freshman Camryn Rogers will be looking to continue her historic freshman season in the hammer throw. Rogers began her season by setting the freshman school record in the hammer and later gave herself the school record as well. Along with senior Destiny Parker, the two dynamic throwers will be a big factor in Cal’s scoring.
Joining the talented squad of field athletes, junior Lauren Martinez will be one to watch in the pole vault. Along with Martinez, expect redshirt junior Isabella Marten and senior Ashley Anderson to give Cal a strong squad of superb leapers.
Turning to the track, freshman Brie Oakley is sure to excel at her first collegiate championship track meet. Oakley is no stranger to the spotlight, having competed at NCAAs for cross country and Nike Cross Nationals as a high school senior. Along with Oakley, senior Garrett Corcoran will be one of Cal’s distance rocks as he competes in the 1500m.
After Pac-12, the Bears will be looking forward to NCAA regionals and then, finally, nationals. For those on the cusp of qualifying, this will be the last shot to get a national mark. Expect some exciting races this weekend, because for some of the Bears, there’s nothing to lose.