Rising Stars Keep Bears on Track in '10

Photo: Junior transfer Mike Morrison made an immediate impact at Cal, taking third at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the heptathlon and second at Outdoor Championships.
Catherine Shyu/File
Junior transfer Mike Morrison made an immediate impact at Cal, taking third at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the heptathlon and second at Outdoor Championships.

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With over 100 athletes and two separate seasons over six months, collegiate track and field provides plenty of ups and downs. The 2010 campaign was no different for Cal.

"There are some mixed feelings," coach Tony Sandoval said. "You end up looking at what could have been and what it really is. In the end, we had everyone doing the best they could to win a title."

Junior All-American Steve Sodaro led the chase this year for the Bears, becoming the first Cal athlete to capture an individual Pac-10 Championship in the 3000m steeplechase.

The title topped off a historic season for the former walk-on, one which included running a sub-four minute mile at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational (3:59.42) and posting a Big Meet record in the steeplechase.

"The fact that he was a walk-on at one time is tremendous," Sandoval said. "He has paid his dues to get where he is and he's had a phenomenal season. He's been a shining star for all us year."

Joining Sodaro this year as an emerging name was sophomore Deborah Maier, who set a school record (9:20.05) and captured an MPSF title in the 3000m after being tripped by a Stanford athlete a few laps into the race.

Despite suffering from both injury and illness, Maier went on to qualify for the NCAA Championships, both indoor and outdoor, making her a serious contender on the national stage for her remaining two years of eligibility.

"She demonstrated that she is one of the elite NCAA athletes," Sandoval said. "She's phenomenal."

Another new face in Berkeley was that of junior Mike Morrison, but opposing coaches nationwide were already familiar with the decathlete.

After finishing third at the NCAA Indoor Championships as a freshman at Florida, a coaching change carried Morrison across the country. He immediately lived up to his reputation.

Morrison set a school record and finished third in the heptathlon at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March before finishing second at the Outdoor Championships, behind only three-time champion Ashton Eaton of Oregon.

"To finish second behind arguably the greatest collegiate decathlete ever was very special," Morrison said. "It's something that I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Now, the All-American's sights are set on his senior campaign.

"Next year's my shot at it," he said.

The biggest blow to the Cal track and field program was delivered by graduation, as senior Mark Matusak prepares to begin a professional career.

The distance runner's fifth year was arguably his best, including a sub-four minute mile (3:58.36), a school record in the 1500m and an All-American finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

"He is a special guy," Sandoval said. "He is like the father of distance running at Cal. He is so strong physically, technically and mentally. He put it all together this year."

For Matusak, the biggest loss will be the relationships he formed during his time in Berkeley.

"The relationship I have with Tony and my teammates made it a special five years for me," he said.

Matusak is the only athlete of the 12 competitors at the NCAA Outdoor Championships who won't return. Fortunately for Sandoval and Cal, it means that experience and talent is set to return to Edwards Stadium next year.


Contact David Seawright at [email protected]

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