No. 17 Bruins Set to Defend Pac-10 Title

May 10, 2005

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UCLA will look to defend its 2004 Pac-10 title this weekend as the Bruins host the 2005 Pac-10 Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium. Field events begin on Saturday at 10:30 am with the men's hammer, while running events begin at 1:20 pm with qualifying heats of the 400m relay. On Sunday, the women's hammer throw will kick off the final day of competition at 10:30 am, while running events begin at 1:30 pm with the 400m relay.

According to Head Men's Coach Art Venegas, this year's Pac-10 track and field teams are the strongest ever with no clear cut favorite, as UCLA, USC, Oregon and ASU all have a shot at winning this year. UCLA is bolstered by a strong group of core athletes, as well as depth in many of the event groups.

The men's distance squad is led by senior Jon Rankin, one of the greatest middle distance runners of all-time at UCLA. Rankin has had an incredible season in which he broke the 4-minute mile barrier (3:57.89) and is currently ranked in the top-five in the nation in both the 800m and 1500m. Backed up by junior Erik Emilsson (nationally-ranked steeplechaser), senior Ben Aragon and junior Martell Munguia, this squad will pick up key points in the Bruins' hunt for the title.

In the sprints, sophomore hurdler Brandon Johnson has stepped up to lead the Bruin men this season. Johnson is ranked in the top-three in the nation in the 400mH and is pivotal in the 4x400m relay squad. All-American junior Craig Everhart will look to claim the 400m title this weekend, and along with seniors Mario Bassani and Denye' Versher and Johnson, the Bruins will look to win the 1600m relay title.

The depth of the throws squad will also bolster the Bruins' hopes for a title. This year's squad features three 60' plus shot putters and a strong group of discus throwers. Juniors Jeremy Silverman and Jake Knight, along with freshman John Caulfield, should pick up numerous points in the shot put, while freshman Greg Garza and Caulfield should score in the discus.

In the jumps, freshman Dominique Easterling is beginning to hit his stride and could score in the high, long and triple jump this weekend.

Last year, The Bruins won Pac-10 with a combined score of 130.5 points. It was UCLA's 17th Pac-10 title and first under Head Coach Art Venegas. Oregon placed second (130 points), followed by ASU (3rd, 120 points), USC (4th, 95 points), Arizona (5th, 93 points), Cal (6th, 75 points), Washington (7th, 45 points), and Washington State (8th, 41 points).

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