The Cal State Northridge track and field team competed in the West Regional Championships at Matador Track Complex on May 30 and 31, with six Matadors earning automatic berths to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Four additional athletes were awarded at-large selections for a school record of 10 athletes qualified to compete in the national championships, which will take place at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa on June 11 through June 14.
The CSUN women’s team, Big West Outdoor Champions for the third consecutive year, finished in eighth place in the West Regional Championships with 31 points. The men’s team, Big West runner-up, placed 13th with 24 points during the two-day event. Arizona State won the men’s and women’s West Regional team titles. USC was second and UCLA was third on the men’s side. For the women, UCLA finished in second place and USC was third.
Senior DaShalle Andrews was the top finisher for the men, automatically qualifying for nationals by placing second in the triple jump with a career-best distance of 52-5.25 (15.98). Andrews, the reigning NCAA outdoor champion in the long jump, failed to qualify for the nationals in that event, placing a disappointing 12th place.
Assistant Coach Avery Anderson said that Andrews’ performance in the triple jump was not surprising.
“He’s capable of jumping that far and farther. If he’s healthy, he could be an All-American in the triple jump.”
Sophomore Stephanie Ralls had the best finish for the Matador women, placing second in the javelin with a lifetime-best throw of 160-11 (49.04). Ralls moved up from her last place position on her final throw of the competition to automatically qualify for the national championships. She said she really didn’t know where her performance came from and was genuinely surprised.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Ralls said. “It was a little over a six foot PR.”
Ralls said she has set new personal records in her last four meets and she hopes the trend continues into the nationals.
Fellow sophomores Sherrina Lofton and Desirae Gonder also automatically qualified for the nationals. Lofton placed fourth in the 200 meters with a time of 23.88. Lofton also competed in the 100 meters and in the 4×100 relay, just missing automatic qualifying in those events. In the 100 meters where she is the Big West champion, Lofton ran 11.62, just .07 behind the final qualifier. In the 4×100 relay, the team placed fifth with a time of 45.35 and the 4×400 relay team placed fourth with a time of 3:37.78.
“She (Lofton) probably would have qualified in the 400 if I had put her in it,” Anderson said. “She’s a good example of someone who put the work in and saw the results.”
Gonder placed fourth in the high jump, clearing a height of 5-9.25 (1.76).
“She’s definitely someone who can come out, and if she has a good day, can be an All-American,” Anderson said.
Other automatic qualifiers from the men’s team were senior Thomas Ross and junior Bradley Ike. Ross placed fourth in the 110 hurdles with a time of 13.80 and Ike ran 10.57 in the 100 meters for a fourth place finish.
“You gotta do, what you gotta do to get to nationals,” Anderson said. “Ross definitely did what he needed to do.”
Anderson believes that Ross can run even faster and said that both Ross and Ike have been running their best times in the last few meets. Even though it will be Ike’s first trip to the nationals, Anderson said Ike has already run against many of the best in the country.
The four at-large selections were awarded based on performances during the 2008 outdoor season. Reindell Cole, the Big West Freshman of the Year and reigning NCAA Indoor Champion in the long jump, was awarded the at-large berth based on his jump of 26-9.75 (8.17) at the Steve Scott Invitational at UC Irvine on May 3. Cole finished in sixth place at the West Regionals with a jump of 24-6.50 (7.48).
Cole’s back had been bothering him at the West Regionals, Anderson said.
“It was definitely disappointing and it was rough for him to get through the meet,” Anderson said.
“I think he’s gonna win. That’s the plan and I’m not gonna think any other way,” Anderson said.
Sophomore Derek Cooper, the Big West champion in the discus, received an at-large selection based on his throw of 186-5 (56.83) on April 20 at the Mt. SAC Relays. Cooper finished seventh at the West Regionals with a distance of 184-6 (56.23).
Senior decathlete Justin Johnson was selected for an at-large berth to the nationals based on his performance at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays on April 2 through April 5, where he scored a CSUN school record 7,473 points for a sixth place finish. Johnson was injured during the Big West Championships and did not compete in the West Regionals, however, he is healthy enough to compete in the nationals.
The decathlon is different than the other events, Anderson said, with the athletes competing not just in the event, but against it, as well as against each other and the weather.
“He’ll compete hard,” Anderson said. “He’ll be trying to become an All-American like he was in indoor.”
Sophomore Shelese Ruffin, Big West Champion in the 400 meters, earned her berth to the championships based on her lifetime best time of 53.80 at the Big West Championships on May 16 and 17. Ruffin took sixth place at the West Regionals with a time of 54.89.
The Matadors had 11 athletes named to the 2008 USTFCCCA All-West Region Team, based on their performance at the meet. To qualify, athletes must have placed in the top eight in their event at the West Regional meet. In addition to Ralls, Lofton, Gonder and Ruffin, two other Matador women received All-West honors. Shaleisha Mitchell and Tara Prier, both freshman, were members of the 4×100 relay team that placed fifth with a time of 45.64. Lofton and Ruffin were the other two members of the team. For the men, Andrews, Ross, Ike, Cooper and Cole each received All-West honors.