Nine male and seven female Aggies traveled to Austin, Tex. to compete in the NCAA preliminary championships in hopes of qualifying for the NCAA championships held at Eugene, Ore.
They would not only need to race with the best they had all season, but also be ready to perform and come out on top.
“When the gun goes off, you have to be ready to go,” said men’s coach Jon Vochatzer. “[Athletes] from those southern schools run fast and jump high. I think our kids got a good taste of what other track programs in the country achieve.”
Though they faced the best track and field athletes from the best schools, UC Davis will send Polly Gnepa to Eugene. Gnepa ran the 110-meter high hurdles in 13.77 seconds despite knocking down seven of the ten hurdles.
“He was really over-excited,” said Jon. “He has developed so much. He’s been trying to put the perfect race together and we hope to see that in Oregon. I hope his last races will have that perfect moment that he’s been searching for his last four years.”
Gnepa wasn’t the only Aggie that hit the ground running this weekend as several other athletes posted career bests.
Ray Green and Igor Seriba both broke personal records in the triple jump, going 50-6.75 and 49-9.75, respectively. It is the first time that Green cleared 50 feet.
In her last event ever for UC Davis, Sirena Williams finished seventeenth in the 100 hurdles with a time of 13.56. She was the only Aggie to keep her time under 14 seconds.
“She had a good, solid race,” said women’s coach Deanne Vochatzer. “The kind of times required [to advance] were ridiculously tough in the sprints, jumps and hurdles. It was going to be a tall order. Still, she ran only two-hundredths of a second slower. Her growth, finishing up as a captain, leader, school record holder-she had a great career as an Aggie.”
This weekend was also a time of transition as retiring coaches Deanne and Jon didn’t travel with the team. Instead, coach Byron Talley went with the team to try his hand in bringing a team to a top competition.
“After this many years, all we want to do is help coach Byron with any transition and stay out of the way,” Deanne Vochatzer said. “[Coach Jon and I] want to take a step back. This was my fortieth year of my coaching career. I want to reenter civilian life as I call it.”
MATT WANG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.