LA JOLLA, Calif. - The skies cleared and the sun shined brightly at Triton Track & Field Stadium on Saturday for the San Diego Collegiate Challenge, where the UC San Diego track and field teams came away with a first-place finish on the men's side and a very respectable second-place showing on the women's side.
"We had some amazing performances," said UCSD men's head coach Tony Salerno
. "It's obvious that our athletes like to compete at home because we had a number of national qualifiers. As far as team score, the men's team did quite well."
The men accumulated 213 points in all, easily holding off second-place Cal State San Marcos, with 119. Facing a more competitive field, the women scored 197 total points, just 11 behind first-place San Diego State's 208.
"For the women's side, if we were just close to San Diego State, that's success," Salerno said. "They're a very good program now and fresh off of a Mountain West Conference Indoor win and if they come out as a full force, they're going to be tough to beat as we are right now."
Out of the 18 events on the men's side, a Triton finished first in eight of them, including six events in which Tritons occupied two of the top three spots. For the women, five Tritons won events. In addition, the UCSD women took two of the top three slots in four events.
More importantly, eight Tritons either improved or earned an NCAA provisional qualifying mark at the meet, including three women and five men.
The men ran away with the competition on the strength of their finishes in the throwing events. Sophomore Nash Howe shattered the meet record of his brother, Nick Howe, by throwing a winning distance of 212'4" in the men's javelin throw. Howe's throw moved him into the No. 2 position in school history for that event. Redshirt senior Kiley Libuit improved his provisional qualifier with his second-place throw of 197'10".
Senior Zach Nagengast bettered his provisional qualifying mark and moved into the No. 3 slot of the men's discus throw all-time top 10 list with his winning throw of 166'8". Finishing second in the discus and hammer throw, senior Matt Endler cracked the all-time top 10 in the former event upon throwing a mark of 153'9". Senior A.B. Shaheen won the hammer throw (184').
Improving on their NCAA provisional qualifying marks as well were juniors Benjamin Berthet and Clint Rosser in the pole vault. Both cleared a personal-record mark of 15'11" to tie for first in the event and sixth in school history for that event.
Junior Kellen Levy broke the meet record in the 1500-meter run, crossing the finish line in 3:57.43. Meanwhile, sophomore Keith Rose broke the tape in the 200 (21.75), freshman Sean Cook leaped the greatest length in the long jump (22'4.5") and senior Ryan Eckert had the longest toss in the shot put (51'1.5").
The highlight of the day for the women was in the women's triple jump, where sophomore Chantia Justice not only earned an NCAA provisional qualifying mark but also hit a personal best twice. Justice's second personal best of the day was a mark of 39'5.75" to win the event and entered the UCSD all-time top 10 at No. 3 for that event.
Freshman Kristin Sato was just behind Justice, also earning an NCAA provisional qualifying mark with her personal-best leap of 39'2.5" while turning in the fifth-longest jump in UCSD history.
In her young career, freshman Sydney Blakeley continued to impress in the women's pole vault. Blakeley cleared a height of 12'0.5", the third-highest height in UCSD history.
Sophomore Sabrina Pimentel, who ran the women's 400 in 56.79 to place third, entered the UCSD all-time top 10 with the sixth-fastest time in the program's history.
The Triton quartet of senior Kathleen Hitchens, senior Chelsey Kamson, Sato and freshman Amy Heins clocked in a time of 47.78, the 10th-fastest time in UCSD history, to take second place in the 4x100 relay.
Elsewhere, junior Lorato Anderson (800, 2:17.14), junior Lauren Irish (400 hurdles, 1:03.62), freshman Marie Diaz (3000, 10:13.74) and Sato (long jump, 18'3.75") all won their events.
The Tritons will be going to one of two meets for their next competition. Some Tritons will be traveling to the Aztec Invitational in San Diego, which starts at 10 a.m. on Friday and runs through Saturday, while other UCSD student-athletes will compete at 6 p.m. on Friday at the Occidental Distance Carnival in Eagle Rock.
"We'll take probably three-quarters of the team or something like that will compete next weekend," Salerno said. "With finals coming up, we give them the option of taking that week off. The San Diego State meet should be quite competitive. We know that Texas is there on the women's side. It's usually a pretty high-end meet, so it's a good situation for a lot of us."
Although Saturday's San Diego Collegiate Challenge hosted the same number of schools as last year's running of the event, the number of student-athletes competing in it grew by nearly a third in quantity.
-- UCSDtritons.com --