Suleman Jumps Over 50 Feet But Falls Just Short in Season Opener

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The Cal track and field team jumped out to a promising start to the season in the Cherry and Silver Invitational held in New Mexico this weekend. Then it jumped again and one last time for good measure.

Triple jumpers Hammed Suleman and Aziza Baker made their second- and third-place marks with jumps of 50-2.50 and 40-10.25 at the Albuquerque Convention Center, respectively.

Suleman surpassed his highest mark last year in the season's first meet to become the first Cal athlete since 2004 to break the 50-foot barrier.

"I wanted to go a little further than that, but just to get in the 50s range again, it feels good," the sophomore said. "A lot of the heartbreak I've been putting in has been paying off."

He was cheering on his teammates in the 4x400m relay seconds before the big jump.

"They just got me so pumped up, I turned around for my jump and I had all this energy built up from seeing them," he said. "The atmosphere that my teammates created for me came through at the right time."

Arizona's Nick Ross took the title by a mere 2.75 inches with a 50-5.25.

Baker was sidelined most of last year because of ankle injuries. The redshirt freshman now tapes up both her ankles as a precaution.

"You don't lose the competitive spirit," she said. "We've all been training a lot and we were ready to go."

She was followed by teammate Amanda Hunter in fourth place and beat by Deanna Young of host New Mexico by almost a foot.

"What (Aziza) did is very impressive and we're excited about what she can do down the road," coach Tony Sandoval said. "Hammed's been solid for us the last couple years, we're really excited about him as well."

While the other Cal freshmen didn't dominate their events, it would be unrealistic to expect too much out of them for the season's first meet.

A handful, however, had an impact, including Chioma Amaechi, Monte Corley and Charnell Price.

Amaechi was the runner-up in women's shot put with a throw of 48-9.00, Corley finished fourth in the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.12 and Price placed fifth in the 60m final with a 7.57.

"A lot of (the freshmen) had competed before, let alone on a banked track, so I thought they responded very well," Sandoval said. "It's still very early, but I saw some encouraging things."

He added that the Bears' performance came against some quality teams, including Alabama, Arizona and Stanford.

Alabama's Kirani James posted a Convention Center record in the 200m dash with a time of 20.58, currently the nation's fastest for the event this year. That time automatically qualifies him for the NCAAs. The decorated 18-year-old was the first youth athlete to earn two golds in both the 200m and 400m at the 2009 World Youth Championships.

The Crimson Tide also claimed first-place finishes by Kamal Fuller in the long jump with 24-9.0 and by Tyler Campbell in the high jump with 7-0.25.


Byron Atashian covers track and field. Contact him at [email protected]

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