It was a season of highs and lows for the men’s and women’s track teams, as the Leopards concluded their season Saturday at the Occidental Invitational in Eagle Rock.
Plagued with injuries on both sides, the Leopards showed promise and improvements from last year during several track meets.
During the season the men’s team set a school record in the sprint medley.
Also the women’s team members had a lot of personal best marks this year.
“We improved throughout the season,” said junior James Thorn. “We fought through injuries and a lot of teams stepped it up in different events.”
“As a team it was a little disappointing,” said junior Seve Villarreal. “We had potential to be one of the top teams in the conference but due to a bunch of un-timely injuries it made things hard.”
On the women’s side, the Leopards increased their numbers tremendously from last year.
Many of the competitors however were sideline because of several injuries.
Sophomore Corbin Henault said the team did extremely well without several members.
“I think that it’s amazing that even on our off days our women sports are competitive,” Henault said. “The sprint would have been slightly better but field events stayed healthy.”
The Leopards also received a strong showing from dual sport player Clarissa Holz, who placed third in the 400-meter hurdles.
In field events senior Antoinette Borders finished second in shot put, which was the highest placing for both the men’s and women’s teams.
Borders said she thinks this was a good year for the squad.
“As a team we did pretty well,” Borders said. “We had a lot of freshman come in and I’m glad they got to progress.”
Borders was the captain of the team this year.
Henault said Borders will be missed.
“We’ll miss her; she kept everybody in check,” Henault said. “She never had a bad day.”
Borders said she never wanted to be the inspirational type.
“I don’t really look at myself like that,” Borders said. “I’m a member of the team. They’re the reason why I stay.”
During the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships, the men’s team received strong showings from its sprinters.
Senior Nahavi Mendoza finished third in the 800-meters.
Freshman Marcus Fortugno finished third in the 400-meter race.
In field events freshman Vince Bauer placed fourth in the high jump with a mark of 1.80 meters.
Sophomore Nick McGrail placed fifth in the discus event with a mark of 40.94 meters.
“Our jump team got way better since last year but there is still room for improvement,” Villarreal said.
“We also did pretty well in throwing. They worked hard in the weight room which really showed in competition.”
Many members of the team felt they had a great year, even with injuries.
“Personally, I made a lot of progress,” Villarreal said. “Even though I didn’t do as well at the SCIAC championships, I now know what the pressure feels like going into my senior year.”
Thorn feels that he made progress as well.
“It was a step in the right direction to get back where I was in high school,” Thorn said.
Also members of team said the team could have placed higher in finals if everyone had competed.
“We would’ve of done better,” Thorn said. “All we had to do is get those injuries out of the way.”
Villarreal said most of the injuries occurred because of the condition of the track at ULV.
“I think a lot of our injuries were due to the quality of the track,” Villarreal said. “I really think that the University needs to look into it, not only for the safety of our track athletes, but for recruiting purposes as well.”
Villarreal expects the team to do better next year since most of the team were juniors and freshmen.
“With a healthy team, look for us to do big things next year,” Villarreal said. “A couple of us have our goals set higher than just the SCIAC but at the national level.”
Many members will be training hard during the off-season.
Both track teams will be looking to improve from this past season both individually and as a team.
“Going into my senior year I have my goals set high,” Villarreal said.
“I feel I need to work even harder this off season. I want to go out putting on a show in the SCIAC and get invited to the national track meet,” Villarreal added.
Jonathan Smith can be reached at email@example.com.