March 14, 2008
The UCLA men's track and field team had seven competitors on day one of the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, AR and the Bruins could not have asked for a better showing from the men as all seven earned All-American honors during the meet. The distance medley relay team, John Caulfield, Darius Savage and Dustin DeLeo earned accolades after a strong day of competition that saw the Bruins end the first day of the meet in fifth-place with 11.5 points. Florida State leads all teams with 26 points, followed by Tennessee (20), Arizona State (19) and Texas (16).
"This was a great start for our team," said head coach Art Venegas. "We were hoping to pick up at least 10 points on the first day and did that plus more. We are very excited to see what Austin Ramos and Boldizsar Kocsor can do tomorrow to help our team get some more points."
Bruin shot putters John Caulfield and Darius Savage each earned All-American honors in a very competitive shot put field which saw the NCAA Indoor Meet and Collegiate Record in the shot put broken by ASU's Ryan Whiting (71-3.50). Caulfield, who has struggled in recent years at the National meet, posted a top mark of 62-2.25 to finish fourth overall in the competition. The senior was eighth after the preliminary rounds with a top mark of 59-10.50, and then improved during the finals to earn the first All-American honor of his career. Savage opened up the meet with a lifetime-best toss of 60-10.75 and was fifth heading into the finals. On his last throw, Savage threw another PR as he finished sixth with a mark of 61-0.25 for his first All-American accolade.
"It's about time," said Caulfield. "It went pretty well today. I think I could have thrown farther, but considering what I did before at this meet, it's a step up. I'm ready for outdoor and really excited about the next few months of competition."
"This was a great way to end the indoor season and get ready to start outdoors," said Savage. "It's also a good place to leave track and field and join the football team for spring ball. I'm really happy, but think I could have gone a little farther. I have no complaints though."
"It was great to start on the plus column with points right off the bat," said Venegas. "This competition was very tough and it's so great to see not one, but two of my athletes score and earn All-American honors. They kept their heads together really well. Darius opening up with a PR is fantastic. John broke the hex he has of tightening up at the National meet. This is big for us heading into the outdoor season because they were able to work with each other and believe they can score."
Today's competition marked the first time since 2001 that two Bruins had earned Indoor All-American honors in the shot put at the same meet. Danny Ames and Scott Moser were the last double scorers for UCLA.
Junior Dustin DeLeo also picked up the first All-American honor of his career as he finished tied for seventh in the pole vault with a top mark of 17-4.50. This was DeLeo's first National Championship, and the junior competed like a pro.
"Dustin was 13th coming in and our gameplan was for a top-five finish," said vault coach Anthony Curran. "We just missed that, but had a great competition. Dustin had great attempts at 17-8, which would have put him in the top-three. He really rose up to the competition and competed with every single guy out there.
"He jumped really well at the highest opening height he's ever jumped (16-8) and cleared it on the second try. He was over 17-0 on his first vault and then cleared 17-4.50, which is the second-highest clearance of his career. He had great attempts at 17-8 and I know it's just a matter of weeks before he clears the higher bars and gives 18-feet a good look."
"Everything came together and I competed very well," said DeLeo. "I tried to jump against every guy. I had really good attempts at 17-8, but when I found out I was All-American I was pretty happy."
Deleo's All-American finish was the first for a Bruin vaulter since 2000 when Brian McLaughlin earned accolades with his fourth-place finish at the National meet.
In the final event of the night, the distance medley relay, the team of sophomore Marlon Patterson, senior Elijah Wells, freshman Cory Primm and junior Laef Barnes finished seventh in a time of 9:35.74 as all four men earned All-American honors. Patterson started off the race with a 2:58 1200m leg, followed by Wells' strong 400m run of 47.3. Cory ran the 800m leg in 1:50.1 and then Barnes anchored with a mile run of 3:59.1. Barnes was just one of a few men to run a sub-four minute mile on the final leg. It was the first All-American honor for Patterson, Primm and Barnes. Wells had earned indoor All-American honors in 2006 with the 4x400m relay.
"I'm very pleased because we are walking away with a sense of accomplishment," said distance coach Eric Peterson. "We ran what we did to get into the meet and that was enough to have some success tonight. We wanted to place higher not only for individual goals but for our team, but we are still happy. Darius, John and Dustin started the meet off on such a great note that we wanted to cap off the evening with a great team effort from our relay.
"Individual splits were solid for each athlete, but as a team, we have to compete harder. We need to focus less on time and pace and more on positioning in the field and simply beating the other runners.
"Laef was really great for us tonight. He was tough and brought us back from the back of the pack to a scoring position. We are a young team and the more experience we get, the better the results next time."