Bruin Track & Field Heads to Oregon for NCAA West Region Championships

May 23, 2007

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The No. 7/8 men and No. 7/9 women's track and field teams will travel to Eugene, OR this weekend to compete at the NCAA West Region Championships on Friday and Saturday. At stake are spots in the National Outdoor Championships, which are held June 6-9 in Sacramento, CA.

The top five finishers in each event, along with the top three relay teams, will earn automatic bids to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Twelve to 15 at-large spots will be awarded to athletes who finish in the top six through eighth-place spots in the individual events based on their national rankings.

Events begin on Friday with the women's javelin at 1:00 pm and the 4x100 prelims at 2:45 pm. On Saturday, the men's javelin starts at 11:00 am, while running events begin at 1:30 pm with the 4x100m final.

Men's Team
The Bruins head into the meet with their highest ranking of the season, seventh in the USTFCCCA poll and eighth in the Trackwire poll, after a strong showing at the Pac-10 meet in which UCLA placed fourth overall.

Several Bruins are poised for West Region titles as they currently rank first in their respective events - Kevin Craddock, Brandon Johnson and Greg Garza.

Craddock, ranks second in the nation in the high hurdles (13.48) and first in the region. Last weekend he blistered past the competition to win his first Pac-10 title.

Johnson won his third Pac-10 title in the 400m hurdles two weeks ago and is going for his third West Region title this weekend after missing most of last season due to an injury. Johnson is back to top form and ready to reclaim the intermediate hurdles crown this weekend. He currently ranks sixth in the country with a best of 50.03.

Garza defended his 2006 Pac-10 title in the discus in grand style as he threw the No. 1 mark in the nation and No. 2 mark all-time at UCLA two weeks ago (208-11). He is going for his first regional title this weekend.

Several athletes are in strong contention for automatic bids to the National meet including Mike Landers, Michael Johnson, Darius Reed and Boldizsar Kocsor. Landers currently ranks third in the region with a best of 17-9 in the pole vault. Johnson ranks third in the triple jump (51-4.25), Reed is sixth in the 110m hurdles (13.88) and Kocsor is seventh in the hammer (217-2).

The Bruins are sending 24 athletes to the regional meet this weekend, with three competing in two events - John Caulfield, Darius Savage and Nick Robinson. Last year, UCLA finished sixth in the team competition.

Two athletes have seen their season come to a close - David Klech and Dominique Easterling. Klech battled injuries all season long, but a leg injury the week prior to the USC dual meet ended his season. He had been a regional qualifier in the 400m hurdles. Easterling, who had not yet competed in the triple jump during the outdoor season, suffered a hamstring injury during the high jump competition against USC and has not recovered well enough to compete.

Women's Team
The Bruins, ranked seventh (Trackwire) and ninth (USTFCCCA) in the most recent polls, are coming off of a third-place finish at the Pac-10 meet in which several athletes picked up conference titles.

This weekend, several of these athletes are poised to pick up West Region titles, including Nicole Leach, Rhonda Watkins and Ingrid Kantola.

Leach won last year's West Region title, and has two Pac-10 titles under her belt. She currently ranks second in the country and first in the region in the 400m hurdle event (55.60).

Watkins won both the long and high jump Pac-10 titles two weeks ago and is primed to repeat that feat this weekend. Last year, Watkins won both the long and high titles as a freshman at regionals. She currently ranks first in the nation and region in the long jump (22-0.25) and is tied for sixth in the nation and second in the region in the high jump (6-0.50).

Kantola heads into the regional meet with the second-best vault mark (13-7.25). She is also tied for fourth in the country with that mark.

The Bruins have qualified 23 athletes in 34 events, but only 22 athletes will compete for UCLA this weekend as two have been lost due to injury.

Team leader and five-time All-American Ashley Caldwell's career at UCLA has ended after being diagnosed with a right tibia stress fracture. Caldwell was ranked 10th in the 1500m with a best of 4:23.38. Her loss is a disappointing blow to the women's team as she was a veteran with championship experience and strong leadership qualities.

Jolanda Diego suffered a hamstring injury during the finals of the 100m two weeks ago at the Pac-10 meet and has not recovered well enough to compete this weekend. She was ranked seventh in the 100m (12.58) and 11th in the 200m (23.58) in the region. The Bruins will not run a 4x100m relay at the regional meet despite ranking fifth with a best time of 44.96.

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