For Cal track and field, everything seemed to click into place this past weekend. Taking on Edwards Stadium, the Bears appeared to stay cool, calm and collected while competing at the Brutus invitational at home.
The weekend started off with the multi-events Thursday and Friday. Leading the Bears with a third-place finish in the men’s decathlon was senior Jono Pelusi.
Pelusi’s finish was surprising, given that after Day One of the multi-event, senior Cole Whatley was leading the Bears in second place while Pelusi trailed in fifth.
“It felt great,” Pelusi said of his comeback. “It was unexpected for sure because we had Riley (Knott) and (Whatley) ending a little bit early, but it felt great to take third and lead the Bears because I definitely wasn’t expecting to do that at the end of day one for sure.”
However, coming back on Day Two, Pelusi brought his all.
The pole vault and 1,500 meter were crucial components of Pelusi’s performance. Earning 825 points in the pole vault Pelusi tied for first place with a height of 4.72 meters.
But the most exciting event of the day was the 1,500 meter. While the race started off with Oregon’s Nathan Poff in the lead, Pelusi kicked into high gear, surpassing Poff and taking first.
“I knew (Poff) was a really, really good runner — his PR was better than mine in the 15 and I haven’t run one in over a year so I was kind of not too certain (about) my pace,” Pelusi said. “But I knew if I stuck with him for most of it I would still end up running a pretty good time and I could tell by the last lap that I still had so much left, so I had to make a move.”
Crossing the finish line with 4:33.74 in first place, Pelusi brought it home with 720 points.
Joining the Bears this year after coming from Brown, this was Pelusi’s first decathlon with the team. While the sport is the same, Pelusi said the teams “couldn’t be more different.” At Brown, Pelusi was the only decathlete. At Cal, however, Pelusi is part of a pack and is surrounded by teammates “that can push you every single day of the week at practice.”
In the women’s heptathlon, freshman Torre Anderson led the Bears with a fourth-place finish. Racing in the 100-meter hurdles and 200 meter, Anderson managed to set personal bests in both events.
Finishing in sixth place for the blue and gold was sophomore Yuki Hamachi. After the 800 meter, the last event of the women’s heptathlon, Anderson and Yuki celebrated the end of the event with a hug at the finish line.
On day three of the meet, however, Cal knocked it out of the park.
In the hammer throw, senior Anna Purchase’s stellar performance was impossible to miss. Purchase threw the ball 73.02 meters — for nonmetric system users, that is equivalent to 239.57 feet.
Her throw was good for second place and a personal best, but more importantly: Purchase’s throw will go down as the fifth best all-time throw in NCAA history and ranks her No. 1 in the nation this season.
“It feels incredible,” Purchase said. “I had a really good week of training so I was hoping to have a PR, but I didn’t expect to have quite such a big number pop up, so that was definitely a shock. I know I was in good shape, but to throw 73 was a dream, really.”
Taking first place from Purchase was former Bear Camryn Rogers. Making her professional debut for team Canada, Rogers threw 77.30 meters — improving upon her previously set Edward Stadium and Brutus Hamilton meet record.
Though Rogers took the win, first place finishes and new records are certainly in Purchase’s future this season. In fact, Purchase is determined to make it happen.
“I want to get on the podium at NCAAs. I would absolutely love to keep the women’s hammer title in the Cal family, obviously after (Rogers’) last three years that would be a dream,” Purchase said. “Then obviously there’s the world championships in the summer. My mark today was about two feet off of the automatic qualification so (I am) trying to get some more marks on the board and reach that qualification mark as well.”
The throwing squad, however, did not stop there.
Making his season debut, sophomore Mykolas Alekna threw the discus 68.39 meters on his third attempt. As though owning the NCAA all-time record was not enough, Alekna now holds the 2023 world lead in the discus. Alekna’s throw also shattered his previously set Brutus Hamilton record by 3.42 meters.
With Purchase and Alekna, the talent coming out of Cal throws cannot be understated.
As the men’s discus was underway, history was also being re-written in the pole vault by senior Skyler Magula. Good for a meet record, personal best and fourth-best in Cal history, Magula cleared the bar at 5.52 meters.
To add to Cal’s accolades this weekend, Cal sprinters on both the men’s and women’s teams earned 10 first-place finishes over 12 events.
The week certainly presented a lot of good opportunities and results for the Bears. And as another week of the outdoor season passes by, a new challenge lies ahead for the team. Heading to Southern California, the Bears will take on Mt. SAC Relays from April 12-15, with much still left to prove.