‘Everybody is really psyched up right now,’ said sophomore Sky Johnston, a UC Irvine middle-distance runner and my temporary ambassador to the world of UCI Track and Field during the Big West Challenge Cup on Friday at the Anteater Stadium.
It was adrenaline rush, along with the Anteaters’ tenacity, that allowed individuals on the UCI team to shine in Saturday’s event despite the team’s disappointing finish. The men finished third of four teams and the women finished fourth.
Perhaps most indicative of this was junior Matt Grilli’s effort in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. Grilli led during the first half of the race and clung on tenaciously to seventh place under extreme exhaustion, giving UCI four points.
‘Those last couple of laps, I’ve never felt that much pain before,’ Grilli said. ‘What kind of sucked is I got kind of pushed in front at the beginning and it was pretty much [the case that] I was going to be the pace-setter.’
In the women’s triple jump, freshman Jennifer Lee worked continuously with her coach to improve her scratches into valid jumps, taking heavy landings in the process.
She grimaced after heavy jumps, but she asserted that the pain vanishes under the force of ‘so much adrenaline built up inside of you.’
Lee was positive about the Anteater effort. ‘We could do so much better. We’re just working on it,’ she said. Lee’s teammate, junior Taylor Cusick, truly stood out in the event. Cusick achieved second place and additionally secured a personal record, her fourth so far this year.
‘It’s really nice because … this is my seventh year doing it and I’ve fouled that distance a couple of times, so it’s nice to have it as a legal mark. It’s a good illustration of all the hard work that the whole team puts forth every single day we come to practice.’
Junior Peter Gonzales of the long jump carried a similar message. Although he scratched his first jump and wasn’t completely satisfied with his next two, he remained optimistic about UCI’s prospects.
‘We did all right,’ he said. ‘We had some good jumps, but, you know, the other teams were pretty loaded in this event, so we knew it was going to be tough coming in. ‘
By the end of the year we’ll be driving pretty far and not scratching.’
Gonzales went on to contribute four points to the UCI team under men’s triple jump, an event in which, as Gonzales predicted, UCI did well.
The javelin throw is, for track and field’s novice spectators, a truly elegant sport; and sophomore Trent hip and planted left foot, certainly contributed to its grace. Spearing fifth place, Richert received hearty praise from his teammates as he set a new personal record of 52.6 meters.
‘I was really happy with that. It was about eight feet farther than I’ve thrown before,’ Richert said.
Freshman Lauren Collins, too, gave her full effort to the Anteaters. Sporting a busy schedule, she had to run to make it to the women’s hurdle event because she was busy breaking a personal record on the high jump at a bar height of 5-9 1/4—and that was on her first attempt.
‘I was really excited,’ she said. ‘It’s always a good thing to PR.’ Collins placed first in high jump and fifth in the women’s 100-meter hurdles, an event she took part in without even warming up.
Junior Dayne Comrie won both the 400- and 200-meter men’s races, and senior Brian Moon placed third in the men’s discus, qualifying himself for the NCAA West Regional.
Although the UCI team did not do as well as they did last year in the same meet, the athletes were optimistic about the oncoming end of- year meet.