After a seemingly never-ending season, 2023 has finally come to a close for Cal track and field. Entering the season, hopes were high for the Bears after a historic 2022 campaign. While last season was touted as the Bears’ best season in years, it is safe to say that this season went above and beyond last year’s results.
Competing in Austin, Texas, the Bears put on a show for the last time. Although no Cal athlete walked away with a national title, veteran Bears ended their careers strong and rookies managed to impress.
Starting off, it only makes sense to highlight the Cal throwing squad.
Going into the championships, senior Anna Purchase was the favorite in the women’s hammer throw. Despite Purchase’s national ranking this season, the competition was stiff, featuring NCAA East Prelims gold medalist Stephanie Ratcliffe of Harvard and silver medalist Madi Malone of Auburn.
On her first attempt, Purchase launched the ball 71.47m, which placed her in third.
“I obviously wanted to come out with a big throw on the first one to try and put a bit of pressure on, but you can never mitigate other people’s performances,” Purchase said. “So I came out with that first big throw and then obviously the other girls came out with their huge throws.”
Entering the circle on each of her next four attempts, however, Purchase fouled. With one last chance on her sixth throw, Purchase was unable to improve her standing with a throw of 66.15m.
“It didn’t go exactly the way I wanted it to, but I think (with) the way I performed at the competition and the way I attacked each throw, I’m proud of the way I competed,” Purchase said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. I have a lot more in me to come.”
While Purchase did not secure the title, the senior nonetheless walked away with a career of accomplishments. For one, Purchase’s farthest throw of the day marked her second-best throw of her career. Moreover, Purchase walks away from Austin having finished an impactful career as a Bear and as an integral part of Cal throws. The senior has left her mark in blue and gold record books by owning the second-best hammer throw in school history.
For the senior, the competition was certainly a bittersweet moment.
“Before my fifth throw I was like ‘I have two more (throws), just enjoy it,’” Purchase said. “I literally remember thinking ‘Damn, you’re doing it right now. Just appreciate these moments.’”
Despite the end of her collegiate career, Purchase has jumped right into training again. The now former Bear is preparing for the upcoming World Athletics Championships and the British Athletics Championships, in which she hopes to earn a British national title.
Also competing in hammers was freshman Audrey Jacobs, who finished in 13th place.
Last year, Purchase and former Cal athlete Camryn Rogers competed together. However, this year, Purchase and Jacobs were the representing duo. In a competition in which only 24 athletes throw for a championship, Purchase noted that “to have two (athletes) from the same school is pretty impressive.”
Another freshman thrower also had an impressive championships debut. Representing in the javelin, freshman Carolina Visca took 12th place. With Jacobs and Visca just beginning their collegiate campaigns, the Bears have a bright few years ahead.
Continuing with throws, junior Jeff Duensing made his championships debut in the shot put. Setting a new personal best, Duensing launched a throw of 19.98m, which was good for eighth place and sole ownership of the No. 3 spot in Cal history.
Teammate Ivar Moisander took 15th place in the hammer with a throw of 68.47m.
The most highly anticipated men’s throwing event was the discus. Going into the meet, sophomore Mykolas Alekna was the sure pick for a national title. However, going up against a stacked field, the results ended in a different fate for the favored sophomore. Alekna’s best throw of the day fell 63.25m and put him in third place. His throw was far short of his personal best of 71.00m, which would have easily earned first in Austin this weekend. Despite the underwhelming finish to this season, Alekna remains a force to be reckoned with.
Switching to the track, the women’s 4x100m relay squad finished in 18th place in the preliminary round — leaving the team unable to advance to the finals. While their time of 43.83 did not get them far in the competition, it did earn the squad the No. 3 fastest time in Cal history.
Overall, the Cal men tied for 32nd place while the women tied for 37th. Combined across both divisions, four Pac-12 teams finished in the top 10. With room for growth and improvement, the Bears will have their work cut out for them next season.
Nevertheless, the Bears achieved an impressive feat this season as they managed to build off of each meet and execute when it mattered most. While some athletes ended their collegiate careers in Austin, others have many years ahead of them. With this group of returners with NCAA experience, and a new recruiting class, Cal track and field looks to be in good hands for seasons to come.