Steve Sodaro Wins Steeplechase at Pac-10 Championships

May 15, 2010

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BERKELEY - Junior Steve Sodaro became the first conference steeplechase champion in school history when the Cal junior won the 3000-meter race in a personal-best 8:40.60 on the first day of the Pac-10 Track & Field Championships Saturday afternoon at Edwards Stadium. The meet concludes Sunday with a full day of finals, starting with the women's hammer at 9:15 a.m. and running events at 1 p.m.

Sodaro's mark was an eight-second improvement over the 8:48.32 he ran in the Big Meet vs. Stanford April 10 and moved him up to third on the Bears' all-time performers list. Only school record-holder Kevin Davis (8:35.37 in 2007) and Gary Blume (8:36.67 in 1979) have run faster at Cal.

'Unbelievable,' Sodaro said. 'This year has been the most unbelievable year ever. Coaches believed in me. Teammates around me telling me what I should do, what I can do. It's just been hard for me to believe myself. I keep surprising myself every day.'

Sodaro, who ran a 3:59.42 mile at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational last month, finished with a final lap split of 64.2 seconds. Dylan Knight of UCLA was second in 8:43.68. Cal freshman Cody Schmidt took eighth in 9:03.07 - a 17-second PR - while Matt Miller was 12th in 9:18.62 and Collin Jarvis 13th in 9:26.49.

'It was a great meet and things are going very, very well,' Cal's director of track & field Tony Sandoval said. 'There are some really great athletes competing and some of these events are just knockdown, drag-out situations.

'It's a real challenge to be able to come back Sunday,' Sandoval added. 'Everybody's fired up to try and get qualified after running pretty hard. It's about the icing, the stretching, eating a good meal, getting a good night's sleep, because everybody's going to be a little tired tomorrow. It's a mental challenge to be able to come back the second day.'

In the men's 1500 meters, Mark Matusak had the fastest qualifying time after winning his heat in 3:44.89, nearly two seconds faster than anyone in the field. The Bears got a second runner into the final when James Brewer, in his first competition of the spring after being limited by an injured foot, claimed the 12th spot with a time of 3:52.30. Brewer was a semifinalist in the 1500 for his native England at the World Championships last summer.

'I didn't have a time yet for regionals,' Matusak said. 'I hope I do today. It was great that A.J. [Acosta of Oregon] took it out and kept it going. There wasn't too much traffic.'

Sofia Oberg was third among qualifiers in the women's 800 meters with a time of 2:07.65, which led heat 1. She entered the race with a best of 2:05.27 from the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford earlier this month. Arizona's Christina Rodgers had the fastest time in 2:06.83.

'It felt good,' Oberg said. 'I felt strong. My training has been going well, and I've been healthy. There are only eight possibilities now.'

Freshman Hammed Suleman and junior Mike Morrison placed 3-4 for the Bears in the men's long jump. Suleman missed his PR by just an inch, finishing third with a mark of 24-7.25. Morrison, who took fourth in the Pac-10 decathlon last weekend, jumped 24-4.25, a Cal outdoor best.

'I started off good,' Suleman said. 'My second jump was 24-7, and then USC [Brendan Ames] came in and beat that by a foot. That really pumped me up, and I came down the runway and landed kind of awkward - my hand was back, but I knew I was going to be in the top three. I was excited - my first Pac-10s in my hometown, and I felt good. My family, my teammates were cheering me on the whole way.'

Miles Palacios uncorked a career-best throw of 199-1 in the hammer on his third attempt, which put him in eighth on Cal's all-time performance list and sixth in the Pac-10 contest. He actually set a PR on his second attempt - 189-8 - before surging ahead by nearly 10 feet one throw later.

The Bears produced a pair of scorers in the women's high jump. Kristen Meister took fifth with a best of 5-9.75, while Kristin Rimbach matched her collegiate best with a height of 5-6.50, which put her in seventh place.

Sophomore Linda Oseso had a season-best 44-4.00 on her sixth attempt in the women's shot put to claim sixth place. She and Oregon's Ritz Santibanez both finished with the same mark, but Oseso earned the sixth spot due to a better second-best mark.

Freshman Malaina Payton was seventh in the women's long jump with a best of 19-6.75, scoring two points for the Bears.

Kimyon Broom, the two-time defending Pac-10 champion in the women's 100-meter hurdles, qualified sixth in the event in 13.60. Emani Truluck was 11th in the heats in 14.04 and did not advance.

Freshmen Alima Kamara (5th, 54.73) and JAsmine Joseph (7th, 54.83) both reached Sunday's final in the women's 400 meters, but junior Kayla Dixon did not qualify after being timed in 56.04.

In the women's 100 meters, senior Cherrelle Garrett qualified seventh in 11.76 and will be out to match or surpass her runner-up finish from 2009.

Michelle Davis took 12th in the women's 10,000 meters and her time of 35:26.30 put her eighth on Cal's all-time performer list. In the men's 10K, Kari Karlsson took seventh in 29:31.82.

                   Women - Team Rankings - 7 Events Scored===============================================================================    1) Arizona                     71        2) Oregon                     65    3) Stanford                    33        4) Washington St.             27    5) Arizona State               21.50     6) Washington                 19    7) USC                         17        8) California                 11    9) UCLA                         8.50

Men - Team Rankings - 8 Events Scored=============================================================================== 1) Oregon 71 2) California 43 3) Washington 41 4) USC 40 5) Arizona State 36 6) UCLA 34 7) Stanford 33 8) Washington St. 9 9) Arizona 5

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