June 9, 2006
The Bruin trio of Mike Landers, Greg Garza and Kevin Craddock highlighted the Bruins on the third day of the NCAA Championships in Sacramento, CA as all three earned the first All-American honors of their career to give UCLA nine team points. UCLA stands in 12th-place overall after those three scored events, while Arizona leads with 28 points.
Junior Mike Landers had a huge day in the pole vault final, jumping two lifetime-bests en route to a third-place finish in the vault. Landers' day didn't start off easy as the junior opened the meet at the highest height of his career, 17-2.75. He missed his first two attempts, but cleared on his third to keep him in the competition.
Landers then cleared 17-6.50 and 17-10.50 (then lifetime-best) on his first attempt to move him into the top-five. The bar was then moved to 18-0.50 and after two misses, Landers cleared on the third to give him a new lifetime-best jump. Landers then attempted to clear 18-2.50, but missed on his attempts as he finished third overall, scoring six points for the Bruins.
The new best mark for Landers, 18-0.50, moves him into a tie for the No. 5 mark all-time at UCLA. It was also the first time since 2004 (Yoo Kim, 2nd) that a Bruin had earned All-American honors in the vault.
"I felt really confident today because I've been working hard all year for this and today was the day to do it," said Landers. "It just feels glorious and awesome. I've been dreaming about jumping 18-0 for a long time and to do it today, when it counts is huge. I want to come back next year and win, and that's what I'm going to put my focus on."
On struggling at opening height - "All I could think was that I'm not done yet. That was the highest I have ever come in at (17-2.75), but I wasn't nervous. I just knew there was a little pressure, but I could do it."
"This is kind of overdue for Mike," said Pole Vault Coach Anthony Curran. "Mike and I have known since midseason that in the right conditions and at the right time he was going to really excel. At Pac-10's and at Regionals we thought he'd do it, but it just wasn't there. This week, he just made it look easy. His steps were just a bit off at 18-2 and if it weren't for that, he definitely would have made it. He definitely has the range to jump 18-4 right now."
Sophomore Greg Garza earned his first All-American honor after a seventh-place finish in the discus. Garza, who had narrowly advanced to the final after finishing 12th in the qualifying round on Wednesday, posted his All-American throw on his third attempt, 183-2, picking up two team points for UCLA.
"I just tried to have fun and stay relaxed," said Garza. "The hardest part was getting past prelims because you have to beat 12 people. In the finals, I just had to beat three people to get three more throws. I kind of struggled finding my rhythm in the warm-ups, but was I found it, I just had fun.
Running from lane one in the 110m hurdles, freshman Kevin Craddock outlasted a hamstring twinge in the first hurdle to finish eighth overall, picking up one team point for UCLA. His time of 13.76 was not a lifetime-best, but it was good enough to give him his first All-American accolade.
"All I know is, I had to beat one person to get on that medal stand, and I wanted to be up there so bad," said Craddock. "This has been another learning experience for me. I had to learn to run through the pain this year. There's a big hurdling tradition at UCLA, and hopefully, my performance today has started it all over again."
Craddock's performance was also a milestone for Sprint Coach Tony Veney, as it was the first time in Veney's three year tenure at UCLA that a high hurdler earned All-American honors. It was also the first time a 110m hurdler scored and earned All-American honors since 1980 (Greg Foster, 1st).
"Kevin's performance was very exciting and a real tribute to this program," said Veney. "We showed what we know as a coach and athlete and it's really exciting to see that rich Bruin history of hurdling start to come back."
"I'm really happy for Kevin. He's the only freshman in the final to score or earn All-American runners and I just know he's going to be a great hurdler down the road. He felt a twinge over the first hurdle in his right leg and he told me after that it was the hardest eighth-place race of his life. He just wanted to do all he could to get that one point for UCLA."
"It's been a learning experience with Kevin. It's been a long year having to manage his injuries and we are really excited to see what happens at USATF Jr. Nationals in two weeks."
Also on Friday at the NCAA Championships, senior Craig Everhart advanced to Saturday's final after a season-best run in the semifinals. Everhart ran 45.44 in heat one (4th) to record the seventh-best time of the day. He will run for his first individual All-American honor on Saturday at 1:20 pm.
Sophomores Michael Johnson and Dominique Easterling competed in the triple jump qualifying on Friday. Johnson finished 17th overall (10th in flight one) with a mark of 50-3.50, while Easterling was 19th (8th in flight one) with a jump of 50-2.
In the discus, junior Jason Rider finished 12th with a throw of 179-3.