Track and field enters indoor season after championship success

The Bruins will kick off their indoor season with a chance to replicate their past success in a familiar setting.

UCLA track and field will start its season at the Northern Arizona Friday Night Duals on Friday in Flagstaff, Arizona. At this meet last year, the Bruins’ field team had eight athletes finish in the top-four of their events to start the year.

Last season, the Bruins saw a marked improvement from past years, with 20 athletes qualifying for the NCAA championships – their most in 10 years. The men’s team finished in 18th place at the championships, an improvement of 48 spots from 66th the previous year, while the women’s team finished 25th.

The men’s team will see the return of senior distance runner Robert Brandt, who was First Team All-American in three track events last year. During the Pac-12 championship, Brandt became the first male Bruin winner in the 10,000m since 1982.

Sophomore Sondre Guttormsen, UCLA’s first all-time indoor pole vault record-holder, looks to defend his Pac-12 title after finishing one spot ahead of current UCLA senior Michael Fancey last season. Guttormsen, Fancey and junior pole vaulter Kyle Brown earned a combined 19 points for the Bruins at the Pac-12 championships, with the next closest competitor being the Washington Huskies, with seven pole vault points.

Overall, the men’s team placed second at the 2019 Pac-12 championships, a sharp turnaround from a second-to-last finish in 2018. A year after Brandt was the only Bruin to record points at NCAAs, five Bruins achieved First-Team All-American honors at the championships, including returning athletes junior thrower Nate Esparza and sophomore jumper Sean Lee.

On the women’s side, junior thrower Alyssa Wilson returns after scoring the most individual points of any Bruin at the NCAAs. At the Pac-12 championship, Wilson finished second in both shot put and hammer throw and finished first in discus, earning her Female Athlete of the Meet.

Wilson ranked in the top seven in shot put, hammer throw, and discus at the NCAA championships and is striving to finish first in all three events this year.

For the track events, the women’s team will see the return of junior distance runner Christina Rice, holder of the third-fastest 5000m indoor time and fourth-fastest 10K outdoor time in UCLA history. Rice will lead eight first-year distance runners for a Bruin team that, historically, has seen stronger results from field events.

This Friday, Wilson and five male throwers will be representing the Bruins, including Esparza and sophomores Otito Ogbonnia and Jacob Wilson. Field events are expected to begin at 2 p.m. and running events are slated for 4:30 p.m.

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