Raising the bar once again, Cal track and field reached new heights at NCAA West prelims. While the Bears have faced a long, grueling outdoor season, the team’s performance in Sacramento certainly proved their deserving status among the West’s best.
Competing May 24-27, Cal earned 15 spots at the NCAA track and field championships in Austin, Texas. Additionally, decathlon pre-qualifier senior Hakim McMorris and 4x100m relay alternate junior Ryan Lacefield will join the team at the championships.
The growth of the Cal track and field program has been a key storyline over the past few years. Just two years ago in 2021, Cal only managed to earn two spots to nationals. Last year, the Bears improved, sending 12 athletes to championships. Today, the team is playing a whole different ball game.
The first day of competition started off strong, with three members of the men’s team qualifying for the NCAA championships.
Clutching a top-12 mark was junior Ivar Moisander in the hammer throw. Unlike a typical competition in which athletes in field events receive six attempts, this time around, athletes only had three attempts to earn a winning mark. On his second attempt, Moisander threw his farthest throw of 69.15m to secure seventh place.
Following in Moisander’s footsteps, junior Jeff Duensing earned the Bears’ second NCAA-qualifying mark in the shot put. Taking on the circle, Duensing launched the ball 19.80m. His seventh-place throw earned Duensing a new personal best and a place in the Cal history books as the junior tied for the No. 3 spot in program history. The result also earned Duensing his first trip to the national championship.
Rounding out the men’s qualifiers from the first day was senior Skyler Magula in the pole vault. Clearing the bar at 5.40m, Magula finished in second. After recently taking the Pac-12 title, Magula was able to carry this momentum into the prelims. Amid the pressure of the competition and the postseason, Magula appeared unfazed.
“With every meet it’s the same thing. It’s no different than if it was a dual meet or an invite anywhere else,” Magula said. “You treat it the same way; you go in with the same mindset and you come out with the same results.”
With so many athletes competing in each event, this is an extremely long competition. Magula, who started warming up at 4:30 p.m., did not finish the competition until 10:30 p.m. For Magula, the biggest part of staying ready during this long stretch was being “mentally prepared” for what lay ahead.
While Magula has come a long way in his career, the men’s pole vault team has also seen impressive growth over the years. As a freshman and sophomore, Magula was the sole men’s pole vaulter. Today, Magula is one of five.
“That’s been the biggest help is having more teammates and training partners, especially with Tyler (Burns),” Magula said. “Once he came in that’s when things started to shift for the better for me … Without anybody else on (the team) you just feel like you’re kind of crazy committing your whole life to something like this.”
While Magula was able to qualify himself for the championship, however, Burns was unable to put up a height at the preliminaries.
The long, grueling competition continued over several days. Coming back Thursday, five athletes from the Cal women’s team were able to qualify for nationals.
In the hammer throw, freshman Audrey Jacobs and senior Anna Purchase started the day off with a bang. Finishing in eighth, Jacobs’ first attempt throw of 64.57m was good for a NCAA-qualifying mark and fourth best in Cal history. Jacobs’ outing was impressive for a young cub in a highly competitive arena.
Joining Jacobs on the flight to Austin will be Purchase, after her first-place title at the competition. Entering the circle, Purchase appeared locked in as she managed to reach 70.25m, which was 2.77m short of her personal best.
The three other women qualifiers were freshman Carolina Visca in the javelin, senior Ijeoma Uche in the long jump and senior Amari Turner in the pole vault.
The Bears qualified two more athletes Friday, one to round out Cal’s throwing squad and another to represent Cal’s runners.
Given his success over the season, it was perhaps no surprise that sophomore Mykolas Alekna took first place in the discus. Alekna was joined on Friday by another Cal qualifier, junior Garrett MacQuiddy.
After racing a qualifying 1,500m time Wednesday in the first round, MacQuiddy moved onto Friday’s quarterfinals. Crossing the finish line in 3:50:08, MacQuiddy secured his ticket to Austin. The junior will be heading to the championships for the first time in his collegiate career.
The fourth and final day of competition was a big day for Cal women’s sprinters.
The women’s 4x100m relay squad qualified for the championships, beating its previouslyset school record. After racing a leg in the relay, junior Jada Hicks took the competition a step further as she went on to race a qualifying time in the 100m hurdles.
After the week’s competition, the Bears can rest assured knowing that this season has been one of the best campaigns in blue and gold history. With the last competition in sight, these 17 Bears can hope to continue their mounting progression this season.