Monday, 03 July 2017 16:30

Track and field athletes shine at summer meets, two make US junior team

UCLA’s outdoor track and field season ended with the closing of the NCAA Championship meet, but a handful of Bruins are still competing.

Five athletes traveled to Sacramento for the USA Track and Field Junior Outdoor Championships for the chance at a spot on the country’s junior national team.

Rising sophomore jumper Isaiah Holmes and incoming freshman Alyssa Wilson were the two Bruins to finish atop a podium.

Holmes took part in both the long jump and high jump, putting up marks of 7.05 meters and 2.18 meters, respectively.

His event-winning jump was just two-hundredths of a meter shy of UCLA’s best high jump mark for the 2017 season, which Holmes also set.

“That was an amazing victory for me considering it was right in my hometown,” Holmes said. “For my confidence, it’s huge. … I didn’t think I could pull out such a big jump but I did that day.”

Wilson competed in three events: the discus, the shot put and the hammer throw. She placed sixth in the discus, throwing 51.11 meters, and claimed second in the shot put with a mark of 16.23 meters.

Her hammer toss of 56.68 meters gave her the event win and surpassed UCLA’s best from the 2017 season – a distance of 51.89 meters, set by redshirt senior Torie Owers.

The UCLA-bound thrower currently owns the women’s high school record for longest shot put in the nation at 17.40 meters.

Joining Wilson was the only other Bruin thrower there, rising sophomore Nate Esparza.

Esparza finished fourth overall in the shot put, hitting a final distance of 19.83m.

“It was basically the end to my freshman year, and I think it was a good place to end,” Esparza said. “I definitely had a little bit more in the tank from regionals. … It was a good final meet to end (with) before I rebuild for next year.”

Esparza said he struggled until his final throw, in which he put up that 19-meter mark.

“Going into finals, I struggled with the (technique),” Esparza said. “It really took the last throw where I just … went in with the mindset of, ‘I’m just not going to think about anything, I’m just going to set myself and throw.’”

The throw slotted him in second place and for a time it looked as if he would be joining Wilson and Holmes. But in that final round, two throwers surpassed Esparza’s high mark and knocked him down into fourth.

Just two Bruin runners were present at the meet, rising sophomores Logen Casavant and Chris Morzenti.

Morzenti ran the 1500 and placed sixth overall with his time of 3 minutes, 53.70 seconds. Casavant fell ill with a case of strep throat, so though he attended the meet, he was unable to compete.

The sixth Bruin to compete over the summer thus far is rising senior jumper Jessie Maduka. Competing internationally in her home country Germany, she recently recorded a triple jump of 13.61 meters, which puts her at third all-time in the UCLA top 10.

Holmes’ leap and Wilson’s throws gave them spots on the U.S. national junior team, and from July 21 to 23 they will be representing both their country and UCLA in Lima, Peru, at the Pan American Junior Championships.

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