Track competes in MPSF championship

The USC track and field team enjoyed a rather thunderous close to the month of February this weekend. Members of the program competed in Seattle at the MPSF Indoor Track and Field Championships and in Claremont, California, for the 19th Rossi Relays, which marked the opening of the outdoor season.

In Seattle, the No. 23-ranked men’s team was participating in the MPSF conference championships for the first time, while the No. 12-ranked women’s team entered their second such conference championship after competing for the first time last season. Despite never having competed in the conference before, the Women of Troy took home the title last season after scoring 106, more than any team — women’s or men’s — that competed. This weekend, the team looked to defend that title and repeat as champions.

Backed by an impressive performance from freshman Dior Hall and a 4x400m relay win in which USC won with a meet record time, the Women of Troy did just that and repeated as champions. Hall won the 60m HH with a time of 8.11, with senior Melia Cox finishing fourth with a time of 8.34 to earn the team 15 points in the opening stages of the competition.

The women then netted 18 points in the 60m team competition race after redshirt junior Tynia Gaither, freshman Deanna Hill, junior Alexis Faulknor, and sophomore Destinee Brown finished 3-6, in that order, separated by just .17 seconds total between them.

The Women of Troy then made their strongest push of the competition in the 400m race, with their competitors finishing 2-5 and collecting 23 points behind four personal records. Junior Jaide Stepter finished second overall with a time of 52.89, freshman Kendall Ellis took third with a 52.19, senior Vanessa Jones finished fourth with a 53.33, and sophomore Amalie Iuel finished fifth with a time of 53.38.

Later, Faulknor won the women’s long jump, Hill won the women’s 200m, and despite already having clinched the title, the 4×400 relay team set a meet record with a time of 3:33.58 to put the icing on a back-to-back championship cake for the Women of Troy. They finished with 111 total points, thoroughly outscoring second-place finisher Oregon, who had 89, and ASU, who tallied 69.33.

The men had a strong showing in Seattle as well, finishing second in their first MPSF conference championship appearance. Junior Andre De Grasse won the 60m dash with a time of 6.602, winning by just .005 seconds over a fellow Trojan teammate in senior BeeJay Lee (6.607). The pair earned the men’s team 18 points for their efforts.

Lee would go on to win the men’s 200m, and strong efforts from teammates such as redshirt senior Connor McCullough, who won the men’s weight throw, freshman Ricky Morgan, who missed the men’s 400m title by just .02 seconds, and the combination of senior Michael Krone and freshman Randall Cunningham — who placed second and tied for third — in the men’s high jump all helped the men earn 88.5 points, second to only Oregon’s title-winning 95. A third place finish by freshman Marquis Morris in the men’s 60m high hurdles with a time of 7.95 and a second-place place finish by the men’s 4x400m relay team, which consisted of Morgan, junior Just’N Thymes, freshman football sensation Adoree’ Jackson, and senior Davonte Stewart. Their season-best time of 3:08.74 helped the Trojans immensely.

At the Rossi Relays in California, USC put on a strong showing as well. Senior Alexandra Collatz won both the women’s discus (175-11, or 53.62 m) and hammer throw (183-7, or 55.62m) events, redshirt junior Malia Cravens finished third in the women’s high jump with a clearance of 5-1.75 (1.57m), and 3000m distance runners senior Kira Soderstrom (a PR of 9:59.69), junior Katerina Berdousi (10:13.45), freshman Amber Bragdon (10:29.89), and junior Jenna Tong (10:33.58) finished 5-8, all helping the Women of Troy to a strong showing in their outdoor opening.

For the men, senior Bryan Mercado won the men’s 100m dash with a time of 10.72, freshman Dominic Smallwood won the men’s long jump with a leap of 23-2.00/7.06m, and redshirt junior Jovante Slater placed second behind Mercado and Smallwood in these events with a 100m dash time of 10.79 and long jump of 22-5.00/6.83m to help the Trojan men also put on a good display over the weekend.

Both the men’s and women’s teams have their eyes on the NCAA Indoor Championships that will be held on March 13-14 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.