After hours upon hours of practice, reps, races and meets, Cal has made it to the end of the 2023 track and field season. Finally, the long-awaited NCAA championships have arrived.
Now, 18 talented Bears have punched their tickets to Austin, Texas from June 7-10 with hopes of finishing the season strong and competing on a national stage.
As anticipated, Cal throwers will be well represented in the championships-bound squad. In total, six throwers are expected to take on the circle in Austin.
For the men and women, the athletes to watch will be sophomore Mykolas Alekna and senior Anna Purchase.
Although the championships will bring together the nation’s best, Alekna has no reason to fear his competition. As the NCAA season leader, record holder and West Prelims champion, a national title is all but destined for Alekna.
At last year’s iteration of the women’s championship, Purchase landed in seventh place with a throw of 69.34m. While a top-10 finish is no small accomplishment, the sophomore’s best throw this season stands at a whopping 73.02m. Though Purchase won the NCAA West Prelims last month, the touted thrower will face tough competition; winning the NCAA East Prelims was sophomore Stephanie Ratcliffe of Harvard. Competing in Florida, Ratcliffe stacks up as worthy competition with a throw of 73.11m.
Among the Cal throwing squad, athletes can be expected to put on a dramatic and exciting show down in Austin.
The Cal women will be the only group of Bears on the track. And though the sprinting squad will be underrepresented at the competition, the blue and gold will be in good hands.
Racing in the 100m hurdles, junior Jada Hicks will be the sole Bear sprinting in an individual event. Hicks, who has had a stellar season, most recently placed 11th at the NCAA West Prelims. At the first meet of the outdoor season, Hicks set a meet record at the Cardinal Classic. From then on, the junior has continued to give her all at every competition this season and can be expected to do the same in Austin.
Also racing will be the women’s 4x100m relay team composed of Hicks and sophomores Jordyn Grady, Makhaila Mills and Aysha Shaheed. As members of last year’s qualifying squad, Hicks, Grady and Shaheed are familiar with the intensity of outdoor championships. While relays are not an easy event, this squad is among the more cohesive teams that will be on the track in Austin and should benefit from its members’ experience.
In the pole vault, seniors Skyler Magula and Amari Turner will bring it on for the Bears. With Turner ranking 14th in the nation and Magula in 11th, the jumping duo will certainly put on a show.
Also jumping for Cal will be seniors Ijeoma Uche in the long jump and Asha Fletcher in the triple jump. Fletcher and Uche will both be competing in the championships for the first time — a memorable end to their final season.
Aside from the lack of men sprinters, the blue and gold’s presence on the track will be light in distance events, as well. The only Cal distance runner flying to Austin will be junior Garrett MacQuiddy.
MacQuiddy, who will be running the 1,500m, is making his championships debut. At the NCAA West Prelims, MacQuiddy did well for himself, finishing in 10th place. While MacQuiddy is a newcomer to the environment and energy of the championships, his campaign this season firmly places himself among the nation’s best. After twice failing to make it past the semifinals at West Prelims, the junior seems finally ready for the challenge ahead.
What has been a long season for athletes and fans will come to a bittersweet end this week. As the Bears take on Mike A. Myers Stadium, the scene is set for the final outing in a Cal uniform for several athletes. There is no doubt that the competition will be grueling. However, after the team’s consistent success this season, this group of Bears can be expected to turn in several championship-level performances one last time.