Warriors track and field team starts season by hosting On Your Marks Open
The Westmont track and field team opened its season on Saturday by hosting eight schools for the On Your Marks Open.
Among highlights for the Montecito club was the sophomore debut for Zola Sokhela, the reigning USTFCCCA NAIA Track Athlete of the Year.
Sokhela’s first race of the year was the 600 meter dash, and it was the first time that the mid-distance star competed in the event at an official race. One might call the result beginner’s luck, as he won the event with a time of 1:20.33, which was a tenth of a second shy of a Westmont record.
“I wasn’t worrying about position too much going into the race because I figured I was going to be in the lead,” reflected Sokhela, “but I’ve never ran a 600 in a race before, so I wasn’t fully sure what to expect. The last 400 I just wanted to take off after easing in during the first 200.
“I did struggle towards the end when I was tightening up. I need to go back to training and keep working.”
Not lost among the near-record was the fact that in his season-debut, Sokhela clinched his spot at the NAIA Indoor National Championships by finishing a fourth of a second ahead of the NAIA A-Standard (1:20.78).
“Going in, the first goal was to qualify for nationals,” noted Sokhela, “and I did that. Regardless of not getting the record, I was happy with that.”
Sokhela was not the only Warrior to win an event they did not compete in prior to today, as Anneline Breytenbach came in first in the women’s mile. Breytenbach finished under the NAIA B-Standard of 5:12.90, when he finished the event in 5:10.82.
“Obviously, I was nervous coming in, but it was nice having the ‘home court advantage’,” said Breytenbach. “Just having the home crowd was really nice along with hearing the encouragement of my teammates. They made it easy to feed off of the positive energy.
“I was a sprinter in high school and this is only my second season doing distance. I’ve always wanted to run the mile but if you would have asked me in high school if I thought I’d be running the mile in college, I would have laughed.”
Other Warriors who finished first in events included Dylan Lambert, who won the 300 meter dash with a time of 36:63, and Adam King, who won the 1000 meter run with a time of 2:30.21. King finished within the NAIA B-Standard of 2:30.91.
Garrett Miller also had himself an impressive season debut, by finishing first in both the mile run and 3000 meter run. Miller finished the mile with a mark of 4:33.13, and the 3000 meter race in 9:13.30.
Over on the field side of things, Ryan Hooten posted the best pole vault mark of the day with a high of 4.25 meters.
Westmont’s women’s team also had a pair of athletes who finished ahead of their packs on Saturday. Kari Anema won the women’s 3000 meter run with a time of 10:31.51, only a second and a half shy of the NAIA B-Standard. Lily Sween capped off the day for the club by outlasting all others in the pentathlon, finishing with 3,198 points.
Westmont won both the men’s 4×400 and 4×800 relays. The 4×800 team finished in 7:52.54, earning them an NAIA B-Standard mark, while they finished the 4×400 in 3:27.10.
Both teams return to action on Feb. 11, when they host the first day of the Sunshine Invitational, which will take place on Friday and Saturday.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.