The spring season continued for USC track and field, and this time, they had home-field advantage. The meet was the Ron and Sharlene Allice Trojan Invitational, the only time the team will be racing at Allyson Felix Field this season.
“This was a great opportunity for the team to compete all together at home,” USC head coach Quincy Watts said. “A lot of the athletes don’t get the opportunity to travel indoors, so for us to get the opportunity to be here on our track, I just wanted them to come out and give a good effort and I am very pleased.”
Not only that, but seniors were honored before the meet, some of which included distance runner Mihajla Milovanovic, jumper and sprinter Austin Allen and sprinter Davonte Burnett. So how did the Trojans fare at their home stadium?
The biggest competition for USC was Texas A&M. The two schools were consistently competing for first place. The Trojans got an early lead in the women’s 4x100, with USC outrunning the Aggies when USC freshman Jassani Carter took the baton. Unfortunately for the Trojans, the men’s 4x100 had a much different fate. Lead-off runner Burnett came out of the gate hot but had to drop out of the race after reaggravating a previously pulled hamstring.
Former Aggie-turned-pro Adidas athlete Sammy Watson accompanied her old team to the field to compete. Watson showed why she is a former NCAA champion as she won the women’s 1500-meter race and her heat’s 400-meter race. In both races, she immediately gained the lead and never looked back. USC freshman Yemi John had a great showing in the 400, narrowly edging out her teammate graduate Bailey Lear. The two ran together the whole time, but John outkicked her at the finish line by .05 seconds.
The men’s 400 was even more star studded as two former Trojans — now Nike athletes — returned home. Rai Benjamin and Isaiah Jewett certainly did not disappoint the home crowd back in Los Angeles. Both men put up lifetime bests, with Benjamin finishing in 44.21 seconds and Jewett putting up 45.90 seconds.
The women’s 100-meter dash was by far the most spectacular race of the day. The best way to describe this race is record breaking. Nearly every competitor put down a personal record. In addition, graduate Caisja Chandler and sophomore Samirah Moody moved to fourth and fifth fastest all-time 100s for USC.
The 800s were extremely competitive, coming down to the wire on both. Senior Janiah Brown won for the women and Texas A&M sophomore Sam Whitmarsh won for the men. Junior Jasmine Jones demolished the competition, winning the 400-meter hurdles. USC had a great day in the 200-meter race, winning both the men’s and women’s competition. Freshman Christine Mallard won the women’s race with a time of 23.36 seconds, and sophomore Johnny Brackins Jr. led the whole men’s race, finishing in 21.10 seconds.
The 3000-meter started with tight packs, but both separated halfway in. Aggie sophomore Maddie Livingston dropped the pack and won by nearly a minute, but USC redshirt freshman Jacqueline Duarte shifted into high gear in the last 100 meters to secure third place. The men’s was close, but in the end Texas A&M pulled away from the rest to win.
The women’s 4x400 was exciting as ever. The Trojans and the Aggies were neck and neck and trading leads the entire race. In the end, the NCAA 400-meter leader sophomore Jermaisha Arnold tied her leading time to get A&M the win. Despite the loss Watts was still overjoyed with the time
“Our mile relay did exceptional,” Watts said. “We ran 3:26, so that has to be the top in the country.”
In the men’s, the Aggies pulled away immediately, but USC graduate Bobby Poynter came from behind to claim third place.
USC demolished the jumping events, winning every event except for women’s high jump and pole vault. The women and men swept long jumps as well as winning the triple jump. Unfortunately, an injury occurred during the triple jump with junior Dominique Ruotolo appearing to injure her foot and had to be helped off the track. USC freshman Elias Gerald won the men’s long jump, recording a personal best.
“The sky’s the limit with Elias having his personal best.” Watt said. “Elias did extremely well, so I think that is great for him and his confidence.”
Texas A&M dominated the field, winning the shot put and javelin throw for men and women. At Friday’s throwing events, two international athletes won the discus throw for men, but former Trojan Joy McArthur returned to win the hammer throw, nearly breaking the Japanese national record.
“Outside of some really great performances, we had some injuries so we have to heal up. But other than that I am really pleased,” Watts said. “I think it shows we are making our mark in the country and we are starting to gel as a team.”
After the Trojan Invitational, the Trojans look to continue the momentum into the Mt. SAC Relays next week.