Both Cal Poly Pomona’s men’s and women’s track and field teams capped off their seasons with victories at the 2023 CCAA Track and Field Champions at Cal State San Marcos from May 4 to 6.
The men’s team proved to be dominant at the three-day meet with the roster totaling a conference-record 311 points. The competition for the women’s team was much tighter as they secured 191 points which was just 5.5 more than second-place Chico State.
Head coach of the track and field rosters Chris Bradford shared his thoughts on the championship titles.
“I’m just very, very proud of our guys,” Bradford said. “We knew we had a special group coming in, and they definitely performed like that, not only this weekend but throughout the year.”
Bradford also expressed how impressed he was with the team’s growth throughout the season, especially among newcomers like Justin Cardoza and Yuna Queniat. According to Queniat, it is the leadership and guidance of the coaching staff, specifically sprint and hurdles assistant coach Darrell Smith Jr., that allows her to continuously improve as a sprinter and adjust to competing outside her home country of France.
“He knows exactly what we’re doing and how we can perform better in person,” Queniat said.
Both rosters excelled in the opening event of the meet, the discus throw. The men’s team secured 27 total points as well as a podium sweep, with Thomas Tuff, Aaron May and Dom Navarrette-Perez placing first through third respectively. On the women’s side, Cynthia Hurtado, Keiana Turner, and Shona Christensen totaled 11 points in the event.
On the men’s side of the next six events, 14 athletes recorded a total of 96 points, bringing the men’s total up to 123 points after day two. Four of the 14 Broncos who placed also secured titles in their respective events including Deandre Smith in the long jump, Nicholas Albro in the 3000-meter steeplechase, Gerwin de Haan in the decathlon and May in the hammer throw.
For May, the event proved to be an emotional affair as he reflected on his personal growth heading into the event.
“It actually ended up feeling really emotional towards the end of it all,” May said. “I did a lot of reflection as I was going through it, and I felt really grateful to even be out there. It was almost like a weight was lifted off my shoulders that way, but it was just such a pleasure to finally get great results out of it and really feel the accomplishment behind it.”
May put up the second most points of any men’s athlete in the individual events, securing fourth place in shot put, taking home silver in the discus throw, and recording a personal best as he secured CPP’s first title in the hammer throw in 32 years.
Day two of the meet was not as fruitful for the women’s roster, with the team losing their lead to Chico State by the end of the day. Still, a handful of Broncos were able to take home medals for their events including Turner in the hammer throw and Jade De Souza in the long jump.
By the end of the meet, De Souza would prove to be a top performer for the roster. Her 18 points equaled the highest total of any non-sprinter at the event for CPP, an even more impressive performance considering her mixed feelings going into the tournament.
“I was excited but maybe slightly afraid because I had an injury for a long time, and I just did my first meet the week before the conference,” De Souza said.
In the end, her previous injury could not stop her as she confidently performed and earned medals in both the triple and long jumps, securing essential points for the women’s roster.
Saturday was both the final and the most eventful day of the weekend, with 14 men’s events and 15 women’s events taking place.
The men’s team continued its hot streak, with 23 athletes earning points for the Broncos. Combined, the athletes took home 14 individual medals and six titles including Matteo Madrassi in the pole vault, de Haan in the javelin throw, Cardoza in the triple jump, Joshua Johnson in the 100-meter dash and Ryan Fields in both the 110- and 400-meter hurdles. The 4×100-meter relay team of Bryce Bushnell, Lorenzo Boyd, Johnson and Smith and the 4×400-meter relay team of Jacob Tilford, Camden Patterson, Bushnell and Ryan Fields also both placed second in their respective races.
Altogether, the men’s team mustered 11 individual conference titles and 311 points throughout the competition, the highest totals in conference history and 104.5 points more than second-place Chico State.
The women’s team showed up on day three as well, with 16 athletes earning points as they collectively took home 10 individual medals. De Souza, Christensen, Susie Fowler and Arissa Hatcher earned gold medals in the triple jump, shot put, the 110-meter hurdles and the 800-meter run respectively. Besides earning first in the 4×100 alongside Jaelyn Thomas, Kelsey Ehinlaiye and Queniat, Ayana Fields was able to win two individual titles on Saturday in both the 400-meter and 200-meter dashes.
The race for the chip on the women’s side came down to the wire with the 4×400 determining whether CPP or Chico State would win the championships. Luckily for the Broncos, Thomas, Queniat, Hatcher and Ayana Fields comfortably earned the gold in the event, securing two more titles and a narrow championship victory.
Alongside securing titles for both teams, many Broncos recorded new personal bests, broke title droughts and earned individual honors for their performances in the event.
Ayana Fields was named women’s Track Athlete of the Meet and earned the High Point Award, earning 20 points across two individual races and helping the relay team earn 20 points in two races.
Cardoza was the biggest star on the men’s roster, being recognized as the men’s Field Athlete of the Meet, being named the Freshman of the Meet and earning the High Point Award after recording a total of 26 points and taking home medals in all three jumps.
Bradford was recognized alongside the athletes at the event, earning honors as the CCAA Coach of the Year for both rosters. Bradford, however, believes his awards are more of a collective achievement than an individual one.
“I’ve always seen it as ‘Coaching Staff of the Year,’” Bradford said. “We have an amazing staff who do a lot of work with these kids to get them into position. Coach Smith, Coach Ashford, Coach Bush and Coach Jennings — they really do the heavy lifting in a lot of ways for what we’re trying to do. So, I’m very proud that we can, as a staff, win an award like that, because I really do see that as a staff award.”
This is the second year in a row both rosters took home the conference title. With the wins under their belts, the Broncos are now preparing for the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Pueblo, Colorado, from May 25 to 27.