June 10, 2006
Senior Chelsea Johnson and freshman Nicole Leach highlighted the UCLA women's track and field team on the final day of the NCAA Championships in Sacramento, CA as both earned All-American honors in their respective events. As a team, the Bruins placed 14th overall with 18 points, while Auburn won with 57 points.
"I am happy that we finished in the top-15 today," said Head Coach Jeanette Bolden. "We have a lot of young athletes on the team and overall as a team we have to congratulate our leaders - Dawn with her hamstring problems all season still finishing fourth, and Chelsea in the pole vault finishing second today. I can't say enough about our freshman group either."
"I think this team has a lot of potential going into next year. It was a great experience to be here in this environment and we couldn't have taught that at home. I'm happy about the condition of the team going into next year. Nicole and Ashley (Caldwell), Rhonda (Watkins) in and Renee (Williams) in the jumps leave us with such a good feeling for next year."
Johnson, the 2004 NCAA outdoor and 2006 NCAA indoor champion and NCAA collegiate record holder fell short of her bid to reclaim the national title on Saturday, finishing second to Florida State's Lacy Jansen. In a day where no athlete jumped particularly well, Jansen claimed the title with a clearance of 13-11.25 on her second attempt, while Johnson needed her third to clear that bar.
The bar moved to 14-3.25 and on her first jump, Jansen was injured and had to pass her final two attempts. Johnson could not clear the last bar, and Jansen was awarded the title.
"I was a foot over 14-3, but I just kept coming down on the bar," said Johnson. "Some days you get unlucky, and I picked a bad day to have that happen. I am really disappointed with how today went, but I feel good about how my career has gone. I've been able to come back after many ups and downs and I won't let one meet define my career."
On the upcoming post-season
"I feel really confident going into USA's. I'm just going to take care of business and focus on preparing for competing in Europe this summer."
Although the senior did not end her career with a final NCAA title, she walks away from her collegiate career, she leaves with the NCAA, Pac-10 and UCLA school record with a best mark of 15-1.
"Chelsea jumped great," said Pole Vault Coach Anthony Curran. "The last few weeks this has been her money pole, but today she just couldn't penetrate. Sometimes the best athlete doesn't win, and that's what I love about this sport, even though we are on the losing end this time. I still think she has 15-feet plus in her, it's just a matter of being on and coming back strong at USA's."
On having Chelsea as an athlete
"She is a true class act. After Lacy got hurt, she went over to her and hugger her, even though she was having an off meet. It was still a great performance. She is my favorite athlete to ever have coached. She is hardworking and discipline and I know how much she hates to lose. Hopefully next year she will come back as a graduate assistant and continue to train with me."
Leach, the only freshman in the 400m hurdle final, finished fifth overall, running 55.93 to earn All-American honors. It was the seventh time since 1999 that a UCLA athlete has earned All-American honors in the intermediate hurdles.
"I chopped over the second hurdle and it took me off balance, so I lost a lot of ground," said Leach. "I'm really happy to have made it this far since I'm only a freshman. I would have liked to run faster, but it's been a good experience because I got the feeling of race tempo."
On USATF Junior Nationals
"I'm excited for it. I'm going to go in their looking to defend my title for the third time, focus on making the U.S. team, and keep improving."
"I'm very proud of what Nicole has done this year," said Head Coach Jeanette Bolden. "She has really carried the team all season and I could not have asked for any more from a freshman. To run a lifetime-best, run through three rounds, make a final and place is huge. There is a lot of room for improvement but she has quite a future ahead of her."
Junior Ashley Caldwell ran a lifetime-best 4:19.73 in the 1500m final, placing ninth overall. Caldwell earned All-American honors in the race because of foreign competitors.
"I always set my goals high, and overall I'm satisfied with how this season went," said Caldwell. "I have even higher hopes next year. I felt good in the final, probably the best I've felt all season. Progress was made, and like Coach (Eric Peterson) says, `everything is a learning experience.' Two years ago I didn't make the final and today I'm here. Next year I hope to contend for the title."
The final competitor of the day, sophomore Renee Williams, placed ninth overall in the triple with a lifetime-best jump of 42-11.50. Her new best mark keeps her at the No. 5 spot all-time at UCLA. There is a chance she could still earn All-American honors if a foreign athlete finished ahead of her.
Final Team Scores (top-10)
1. Auburn 57; 2. USC 38.50; 3. South Carolina 38; 4. Arizona State 37; 4. Nebraska 37; 6. Texas 36; 7. LSU 30; 7. Miami 30; 9. Georgia 27.5; 10. Texas A&M 24; 14. UCLA 18.
Several Bruins will continue to train as they prepare for the USATF Senior and Junior National Championships, held in Indianapolis, IN June 21-25.