Senior Claudia Ramirez completes a jump of 15 feet 6 inches placing her in the top 20. University of La Verne competed at the Rossi Relays in Claremont against a variety of schools ranging from Division I to III. This will give them the experience they need throughout the season.
The University of La Verne men’s and women’s track and field teams geared up for upcoming SCIAC competition Saturday afternoon with an impressive showing at the prestigious Rossi Relays at Claremont McKenna College.
In what hoped to be a precursor for another year of conference success, the Division III Leopards competed successfully against some of the state’s top talent with the likes of USC, Azusa Pacific, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, Cal State Los Angeles and Cal Poly Pomona, as well as many other talented schools from various divisions in attendance.
Although many of La Verne’s athletes were competing for the first time since coming back from injury or were being withheld from competition to rest up and heal for conference meets, there were still many impressive performances in both the men’s and women’s events.
The men’s top sprinter Darnell Gilbert, who had been nursing a hamstring injury during early season competition, finally competed.
Gilbert masterfully won his heat of the 100-meter dash in impressive fashion, while looking toward a SCIAC crown and likely a berth at the division three national championships.
“It feels good to get a race under my belt,” Gilbert said. “This was the first 100-meter race of the year and I wasn’t running for time, but to win.
“When I realized at the 50-meter mark I was in control, I just slowly shut my body down.,” he added. “My focus is not on SCIAC, its on nationals. I know if I prepare myself for nationals, then the SCIAC championship will come.”
Other noteworthy performances on the men’s side were distance runner Efrain Partida’s top 20 finish in the 3000-meter race, as well as field event newcomers Jon Fitzhugh’s 20 ft. 11 in. long jump, Seth Shelton’s 12 ft. 6 in. performance in the pole vault, and Dustin Elliot’s 137 foot toss of the javelin.
The men’s team hopes to have the talents of impressive jumper/sprinter Wade Worthy in SCIAC competition, who was held out of competition to rest up before the upcoming pivotal point of the season.
“Being the tough competitor that I am made it very hard for me to sit out of this meet, but I knew I needed to rest up and stay healthy for SCIAC, because that is where I need to raise myself to the next level,” Worthy said.
Returning SCIAC champion Veronica Andrews led the women’s team with a strong showing.
Andrews appeared to be in late season form in Saturday’s competition with impressive marks that should allow her to defend both her javelin and high jump titles at the SCIAC Championships.
“I felt as though I had some success today, but I can’t wait to compete with full approaches in my events at SCIAC,” Andrews said. “Claremont poses the biggest competition, but if I stay focused there is no reason why I can’t defend my titles.”
The Leopards were also paced on the women’s side with outstanding performances in the field events from throwers Erica Pembleton and Taimane Suddeth, jumpers Briana Gonzalez and Valerie Woods, and Chelsea Sherrier in both the pole vault and high jump.
The abilty to outrun, out jump and throw farther than other division schools gives the University athletes confidence that they will carry throughout the season.
Many athletes have high standards for this year. To hold these goals they will need to stay healthy and keep competing at this level. If they do so this team will bring another SCIAC championship to La Verne.
Following their success over the weekend, the Leopards appear ready to defend their women’s title and improve on last season’s fifth place finish on the men’s side, as SCIAC competition is set to begin March 3.
Kevin Davies can be reached at email@example.com.