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Track and field races to the finish

Freshman pole-vaulter Taylor Bernhard competes at the Occidental Invitational track meet Saturday. She successfully cleared a height of 10-10.75 feet, placing her 14th out of 23 athletes. The invitational was a non-scoring meet. / photo by Zachary Horton

Robert Penalber
Staff Writer

The men’s and women’s track and field teams competed at Saturday’s Occidental Invitational in hopes of improving their personal records weeks before heading to the NCAA Division III Championships.

The all-day invitational at Eagle Rock included open competitors and professionals as well as track and field teams from Divisions I, II and III.

“The whole point of me competing this week is to prepare for the heptathlon in two weeks at Claremont,” senior Clarissa Holz said.

Holz, a team captain this year, participates in the heptathlon but used the invite to practice improving her records in long jump, 100-meter hurdles and the 200-meter dash. Holz ended the day with commendable scores of 16-10 feet in the long jump and 17.26 in the 100-meter hurdles.

Some of the field participants shared Holz’s view on using the meet as practice before qualifying for nationals.

“I’m trying to up my standards for nationals,” sophomore Katie Yeager said. “Right now I’m 14th, but I’m trying to get higher so I can have some cushion to sleep at night.”

Yeager had a pole vault score of 11-10.5 feet, an improvement of nearly five inches from the 11-5.75 foot vault that placed her third in last year’s Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships.

“I’m trying to get a new (personal record),” freshman Taylor Bernhard said. “I’m trying for 12 feet today so I can get to nationals and work from there.”

Bernhard also competed in pole vault and reached 10-10.75 feet.

Sophomore Nicole Crutch­field made an impression with her 100-meter dash time of 12.43, only seconds behind competitors from Division I schools such as USC. Crutchfield also ran the four by 100 meter relay along with sophomore Ebony Williams, junior Stephanie Tucker and junior Lili Bolanos. They finished the race in 48.72.

The men enjoyed a solid performance as well. Freshman jumper Jabre Millon came close to matching his personal records with 20-7.25 feet for the long jump and 40-11.75 for the triple jump. Millon said he planned to improve his scores throughout the next three years.

Sophomore Jared Manke had a striking clearance of 15 feet in the pole vault.

Many of the notable performances came from the runners. Senior sprinter Marcus Fortugno’s 200 meter dash time of 21.84 was enough to beat competitors from Redlands and Division I schools, including USC and Cal State Fullerton.

Junior distance runner Sean Kusick kept up with the competitive times for the 5,000 meter run with a personal time of 16 minutes and 9 seconds.

Senior sprinter Michael Anderson surged with a 14.91 for the 110 meter hurdles, while sophomore sprinter Chancise Watkins’s time of 48.74 in the 400 meter dash defeated opponents from UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and Azusa Pacific.

Junior Losa Akoula reached just above 111 feet in the discus throw and Sean Smith reached 132 feet.

Smith also participated in shot put with a final 43 foot reach.

Both the men and women’s teams showed pure strength and left marks on the field.

Overall the Leopards proved to be strong contenders on Occidental’s field.

This was the first event the Leopards have competed in after the SCIAC Championships, where they placed third overall.

The men’s and women’s track and field teams will compete next at the Cal State Los Angeles Invitational on Satur­day.

One week later the Leopards will be heading to the NCAA Division III National Outdoor Championships in Claremont.

Robert Penalber can be reached at robert.penalber@laverne.edu.

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