Coach Brandon Masters and the Northwest track and field team left behind the rural area of Maryville and flew to California with many expectations. When Masters and company returned, they came back with 15 national marks, 21 personal bests and six school records.
“It was a pretty good weekend,” Masters said. “That’s the reason we go.”
The Bearcats started their trip with the Bryan Clay Invite in Azusa, California, April 13-15 and the Cal State L.A. Twilight Open in Los Angeles April 13-14.
Part of the team then competed in the Mt. San Antonio College (SAC) Relays in Walnut, California, April 14-15, before the whole squad finished out the weekend at the Beach Invitational in Long Beach, California, April 15.
Over 100 teams competed in the four meets in the span of four days, including some professional athletes, Oregon, UCLA, LSU, USC and many other teams.
Masters said the competition was high, the weather wasn’t an issue, and the kids competed all weekend.
“This is a big meet — you have big competition,” Masters said. “There’s a lot on the line, and we travel clear out there for a reason. It really gives the kids an idea of how to step up for the big meet, and one of our biggest meets is conference.”
Sophomore Anna Gladstone said the trip was exciting, adding that the weather was perfect. She said it was cool seeing different teams there in a good environment.
Gladstone took part in the Bryan Clay Invitational and competed in the heptathlon event. This event is comprised of seven different disciplines, including the 200-meter dash, the 800, the 100-meter hurdles, long jump, javelin, high jump and shot put. Despite the busy day, Gladstone set personal records in five of the seven events.
“I’m actually really happy with how I performed,” Gladstone said. “I dropped a lot (of time) in the 800 and the hurdles, and I know there’s a lot of room for improvement in javelin. I know I can do better, but I’m very happy with how I did.”
“She can do everything,” Masters said. “A lot of kids can’t do those things … so having her achieve so much as a sophomore — she’s fired up, she’s motivated — and she’s going to do nothing but get better.”
Redshirt freshman Reece Smith ran in the 5,000 and the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Mt. SAC Relays. Smith placed 29th in the 5,000 with a time of 14 minutes, 12 seconds and 94 milliseconds and third in the steeplechase with a time of 8:39.09, behind BYU’s Kenneth Rooks and Montana State’s Levi Taylor. Smith earned an NCAA provisional mark and a personal record in both events.
“It was crazy,” Smith said. “It was super competitive. Some of the best teams in the country were there — Division I, Division II, pros. You kind of have to heighten your game a little bit. It was nice to race against guys I’ve never seen before.”
Smith said experiencing such a big meet was cool and that it helps with the conference and national championships. He also said that this meet helped with his confidence because he knows he belongs at a big meet like this with big competition.
“The training now shifts a little bit because we’re pretty much into nationals at least in one event,” Smith said. “So we can have a long-term focus, and we don't have to worry about catching a mark, because we already have one. We can try to run fast at the end of May instead of trying to get a mark at the beginning of May.”
Sophomore Sarah Prickett competed in the 100 hurdles at the Beach Invitational, the Bryan Clay Invite and the Cal State L.A. Twilight Open. She took first place at the Cal State L.A. Twilight Open with a time of 14.14, earning a NCAA provisional mark.
Junior Caroline Cunningham competed in the 1,500 at the Mt. SAC Relays, placing 14th with a time of 4:29.71 and 11th in the 3,000 steeplechase with a time of 10:29.75. Cunningham earned an NCAA provisional mark in both events.
“We had a great weekend for everyone who went out (to California),” Smith said. “Everyone’s turning on before crunch time with the conference (championships) and nationals, so it should be good.”
The Northwest track and field team is back in the Midwest and will be back in action at the Midwest Classic April 23 in Emporia, Kansas.