While classmates headed back to their hometowns, flew to exotic locations or bunkered down in Berkeley, Cal track and field had a different agenda.
During spring break, the Bears toed the line at two separate meets: the Cardinal Classic at Stanford’s Cobb Track and Angell Field on March 19 and the Aztec Invitational, hosted at San Diego State’s Aztrack Sports Deck from March 25-26.
Cal sent a select group of its top athletes to Stanford, where the team demonstrated depth and young talent.
Among this field was freshman Mykolas Alekna from Vilnius, Lithuania, one of Cal’s newest additions to its prized throwing squad. Alekna’s discus throw of 62.63 meters broke the Cal freshman record and currently sits at the top of NCAA standings for the season.
Alekna hails from a long tradition of throwing — his father is a two-time Olympic discus champion. His performance in Palo Alto earned him the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Men’s Athlete of the Week and the Pac-12 Men’s Field Athlete of the Week. As some of the Bears’ strongest throwers inch towards the end of their eligibility, Alekna brings vitality and longevity to the program.
Junior Anna Purchase, too often overshadowed by Olympian Camryn Rogers, is proving that she too is a force to be reckoned with. Her hammer throw of 67.25 meters ranks No. 2 in the NCAA and was a Cardinal Classic record.
Out on the track, the women’s 4×100 made steady gains in Palo Alto. Jenea Spinks, Ezinne Abba, Maisie Stevens and Aysha Shaheed notched the fourth-fastest time in school history and set a new Cardinal Classic record. After the women’s relay, Abba, a senior from Rancho Cucamonga, managed to turn around and secure two first-place finishes in the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash.
In San Diego, Alekna took his record from Palo Alto and absolutely shattered it with a new PR of 66.70 meters. His mark broke the NCAA’s freshman record, the Lithuanian U23 record, the Aztrack Sports Deck facility record and the Aztec Invitational meet record. Most impressively, however, his heave makes him the third-best discus thrower on the planet — quite the recruit for Cal.
Another freshman, Amelia Flynt, threw the shot put 16.53 meters, good for No. 2 in Cal history. Meanwhile, junior Jasmine Blair won the discus event with her throw of 56.38m.
Abba built upon her strong performance at Stanford and fell just .01 seconds shy of matching her personal best and her own school record in the 100-meter dash.
Track meets are scored by aggregating individual strong performances. The Bears collectively finished at No. 2 in the men’s division and No. 3 in the women’s division.
The Cardinal Classic and Aztec Invitational put some new Cal athletes in the headlines. While some of Cal’s strongest age out of collegiate athletics, a new wave of young Bears seems ready to take the reins.