No. 17 Men's Track & Field Ready to Battle for West Region Title

May 22, 2006

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Art Venegas' No. 17 UCLA men's track and field team will head to Provo, UT Friday, May 26 through Saturday, May 27 for the fourth annual West Region Championships. The Bruins, who captured the first two regional crowns are set to battle for this year's title as a strong and talented team heads to compete.

The top-five in each event will garner automatic bids to nationals. At-large bids will be awarded to the 6th-8th-place finishers based on their rank on the national descending order list.

The Bruins have a total of 28 regional qualifying marks with multiple athletes posting double event qualifiers. Fifteen of those 28 marks rank in the top-8 in the region as UCLA's hopes are high on a team title and on qualifying numerous athletes for the NCAA meet.

Junior All-American Brandon Johnson, who suffered a hamstring injury as the anchor leg of the 4x400m relay at the RJ/JJK Invite in early April, was expected to return to competition this weekend. However, Johnson's leg has not recovered to the level he and the coaches believe it needs to be to contend for a spot at Nationals, and is done for the season. UCLA is optimistic that he will be granted a redshirt year of eligibility due to the injury.

Although the Bruins will be without the talents of Johnson, the team has proven they can succeed behind several other top performers, and this weekend looks to be no different. In all, the Bruins have 24 marks ranking in the top-8 in the region.

Senior Craig Everhart leads the Bruin sprinters after an impressive Pac-10 runner-up finish where he equaled his season-best time of 45.78. Everhart's season-best ranks second in the conference and eighth in the nation.

Freshman Kevin Craddock will represent the hurdlers this weekend as he competes in the 110m high hurdles. Craddock had a breakout Pac-10 meet, finishing second with a lifetime-best run of 13.73, a time which ranks second in the region and 13th in the nation.

UCLA will not run a 4x100m relay team, but the fourth-ranked 4x400m relay will be in action with Everhart, freshman Elijah Wells, sophomore James Rhoades and junior Tracy Session (3:07.45).

Three men will represent the Bruins on the distance side of things as senior All-Americans Erik Emilsson and Martell Munguia and sophomore Mike Haddan will compete. Emilsson currently ranks sixth in the region in the steeple (8:47.55). Munguia will run the 800m (1:49.69, 10th in region) and Haddan will run the 1500m (3:45.86, 12th in the region).

The Bruins will have four competitors in the pole vault with junior Mike Landers leading the way. Landers, the Pac-10 runner-up last weekend ranks second in the region and 13th in the nation with a best mark of 17-8.50. Junior David Shortenhaus holds the eighth-best mark (17-0.75), while sophomores Zack Miller (16-6.75) and Chris Bencomo (16-7.25) hold the 10th and 11th-best marks in the region.

Sophomores Joel Tuosto and Dominique Easterling will represent the Bruin long jumpers this weekend. Tuosto goes into the meet with the No. 7 mark in the region (24-9), while Easterling ranks 15th with a best of 24-2.25.

Easterling will also compete in the triple jump, giving him double duty this weekend. Last weekend, he posted the No. 2 mark in the region, 52-1.25, which also ranks 15th in the nation. Sophomore Michael Johnson ranks just behind Easterling in third with a best of 51-7.75, while senior Demetre Howard holds the 8th-best mark, 51-5.50.

UCLA will have three throwers in both the shot put and discus competitions. In the shot, sophomore John Caulfield leads the way with the No. 5 mark in the region (63-8.25, 11th in the nation). Seniors Jake Knight (61-3) and Jeremy Silverman (60-5.25) rank sixth and seventh, respectively.

In the discus, 2006 Pac-10 champion Greg Garza looks to continue with his success in the discus after upsetting the nation's leading thrower, Arizona's Adam Kuehl. Garza's lifetime-best of 194-1 ranks sixth in the region and 14th nationally. Junior Jason Rider holds the 10th-best mark at 186-10, while Caulfield ranks 11th with a mark of 185-9.

Freshman Boldizsar Kocsor, the 2006 Pac-10 Champion, will look to continue his impressive first season as a Bruin after posting the No. 9 mark in the nation and No. 3 mark in the region last weekend (219-1).

Men's events begin on Friday at 10:00 am with the hammer,while the first Bruin running event will take place at 2:45 pm with the 1500m prelims. On Saturday, triple jump kicks off the men's competition at 12:00 pm and running events start at 2:00 pm with 1500m final.

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