Jefferson P. Nolan
Despite losses from the Cal Poly track and field team on both the men’s and women’s sides to UC Santa Barbara, Saturday’s performances yielded some positive results in its last dual meet of the season — most notably John Prader’s recording-breaking leap in the pole vault — as the team prepares to partake in the 2013 Big West Conference Championships.
The men’s and women’s teams, after competing in the Mt. SAC Relays two weekends ago, fell to the Gauchos 101-96 and 102-96, respectively.
But in Blue-Green Rivalry meet, it was Prader who turned heads as he broke a 16-year-old school record in the men’s pole vault, clearing the bar of 18 feet, 7 inches. His vault topped Sean Brown’s previous record set in 1997 of 18 feet, 6.75 inches.
“I think that the team has been competing very admirably,” director of track and field/cross country Mark Conover said. “They’re out there competing and fighting for every place, and as a result, they’re putting in some great marks. Personal bests are being put up out here. They’re just fighting and competing hard, and that’s all you can ask for.”
But even with the men’s and women’s dual loss, the meet was viewed as preparation for the upcoming Big West championships.
“It’s a meet to keep the legs going,” sophomore Hanna Edwards said. “It’s to prepare for conference. It’s more relaxed, and we’re focused on our team and what we’re trying to do. It’s more working for our own goals.”
Edwards, after posting a personal record in the Mt. SAC Relays, recorded another personal record of 4:21 in the 1,500-meter run on Saturday, finishing just before true freshman standout Laura Hollander.
After the cross country season, the All-American took time off from competing in track meets because of a foot and knee injury. But after making a full recovery, Hollander finished third in the Mt. SAC Relays in her first race for the track team. And in her run against the Gauchos, she finished the 1,500 in first place with a time of 4:25.
“I think it’s important to not only always push, push, push, and recognize when you’ve got to take it back a little bit in order to keep progressing,” Hollander said. “After cross country, it was just a lot; I kept training, and I think I’m on the right track now and I can just improve on the season.”
On the men’s team, junior Jamison Jordan came out on top with a season-best time of 10.53 in the 100.
Also, junior John Guerrero emerged victorious in the 800, finishing with a time of 1:51.
Sophomore Brian Hutchison led the way for the men’s shot put as he threw a personal best of 54 feet, 3 inches.
On the women’s side, freshman Kendal Nielsen secured first place after jumping 40 feet, 8 inches in the women’s triple jump. Her leap was the fifth-best mark in Cal Poly history.
Looking ahead, the sight of Conover’s track and field squad is directed to the Big West Conference Championships, which commence on May 10th in Northridge, Calif.
In the championships, Hollander will race in the five-kilometer run, not the shorter 1,500.
“It’s the same race as cross country, but tactically, it’s just such a different race,” Hollander said. “The runners can see you the entire time, and it’s just a faster pace. They don’t let you get away. On the track, it’s about the last three laps and having a good finish. It’s about being able to finish it hard and strong.”
And at the championships, Hollander will do everything in her power to help her team earn a Big West Conference title.
“Conference meets are always interesting because one team might be really strong in certain field events and some may be stronger in the distance events,” Conover said. “We have a very young team on the women’s side and have some good, young talent. I just see them (and the men’s team) using this as invaluable experience and continuing the progress we have made.”