When the UC Santa Cruz track and field team received the green light to compete in March, they had less than two months to prepare for the Coast To Coast Championship (C2C) in Maryland. Training started at twice weekly, before progressing to five times a week. As the 28 athletes gradually increased their strength, they held their breath in anticipation of the first out-of-state meet since the pandemic began.

UCSC, American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA), and the Capital Athletic Conference joined the Coast to Coast Conference in May 2020. The Coast to Coast Conference is an intercollegiate sports organization associated with the NCAA’s Division III. 

UCSC competed against Christopher Newport University, Salisbury University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Southern Virginia University, and the University of Mary Washington.

“We were the only West Coast school, and many of the other C2C schools had been competing against each other all season,” said David Klech, cross country, and track and field coach. “This was a fun way to get out of our comfort zone and just compete the best we can.”

Klech believes that a lack of in-person interaction among team members during the spring 2020 season until winter 2021 affected their eagerness to compete. 

A number of UCSC’s competitors at the meet started in-person training last fall, placing them at an advantage. Before February 2021, UCSC’s training had been entirely virtual. The team did core exercises over Zoom, but for some athletes, maintaining motivation during virtual training was a challenge. Morale was low and members shared an overall feeling of frustration. 

“Losing our season last year was really shocking and tough to get through. Track and field was a relief from school,” said fourth-year Abby McPhillips. “Everyone’s mentality has changed, everyone appreciates track and field a lot more.”

This is McPhillips’ last season with the team she has been a part of since her freshman year at UCSC. Even in the midst of virtual training, McPhillips remained hopeful and ready for when the team returned to in-person training. 

When the team did return to in-person training, Klech noticed a near-instantaneous difference in the athletes’ moods, shifting from frustration to excitement. 

Sophomore Hana Yamamoto chooses to look at virtual training as a period of stillness and introspection, one that she is grateful for. 

“Letting myself take a long break from training and being ’in shape’ changed my relationship to my body and to running in a really positive way,”  Yamamoto said. “It allowed me to reconnect with running as a thing I do for myself, rather than just for running a certain time or winning a race.”

As the team only had a few weeks of training under their belts, the decision was made to take 28 student athletes who were best suited for the competition to the ACAA championship held between April 30 and May 1. 

On the first day of the championship, seniors Abby Klein and Sean Riedel represented UCSC in the 1000m races. Klein placed fourth in the women’s division, and Riedel placed second in the men’s division.

“When we actually got to the week of the meet, I think everyone was amped to be there,” Klech said. “We had competed quite a bit less than a number of the other teams, so we were somewhat of an unknown, but based on our training we knew we could do something pretty special.”

UCSC placed fourth overall at the event, with six team members taking home individual wins. 

“It’s pretty rare for a meet with so many moving pieces to do great across the board and we really did that,” Klech said. “All 28 student-athletes we brought all competed incredibly, which as a coach is really special to witness.”

Hana Yamamoto: W 800m 
Elana Muzzy: W 1500m, W 5000m
Abby McPhillips: W High Jump, W 4x400m Relay
Mason Pierce: M Pole Vault
Conrad Pereira: M High Jump
Santiago Edinger: M 800m