Track and Field find strength from within during uncertain season

Courtesy+of+Derrick+Tuskan

Derrick Tuskan

Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan

by Marco Perez, Staff Writer

The San Diego State track and field team’s season came to an end last Thursday when the 4×100 meter relay team finished its race at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at the University of Oregon. 

The team consisting of sophomore Tai McDonald, sophomore Danae Dyer, freshman Aisha Watt and freshman Jada Moore ran the race in 45.40 seconds, but was later disqualified after a review found there to be an “exchange outside of zone three.”

The 4×100 meter relay team members were the only representatives from SDSU to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and have a competitor in the past at 23 of the last 24 Championships.

SDSU is the only nonpower five school to have a 4×100 meter relay team compete in four of the last five NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Despite a disappointing race to end the season, the Scarlet and Black have plenty to be proud of and reflect upon before next season.

The Aztecs had 14 athletes qualify for the NCAA West Region Prelims (the most since 2008) after winning the Mountain West Conference Championships. At the MWC Championships, SDSU earned seven gold medals, three silvers and two bronzes. As a team, the Aztecs earned 161 points (their most since 2013).

The 2021 track and field season was unlike anything the athletes had faced before. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the 2020 outdoor season and the 2021 indoor season that preceded this outdoor season. There was uncertainty about whether or not the 2021 outdoor season would take place.

The uncertainty and struggle surrounding the pandemic and its protocols forced the team to spend the majority of their time with each other, establishing a bond that helped the team succeed this season. 

“I do think COVID brought us closer together because we were all struggling,” Watt said. “It helped that everyone was going through it, so we all had to come together and do it together.” 

During practices and meets, the team had to rely on each other for support. Because of COVID-19 protocols, fans were not permitted at meets and contact with others was limited to teammates and team personnel.

For Watt, the help and support she received from teammates helped her to succeed in her freshman season.

“My teammates were the best,” Watt said. “When I did start seeing results, they would text me and walk up to me at practice and tell me how proud they are of me and how awesome it is. For them to go out of their way and say that they noticed the hard work I was putting in was amazing. It made me want to keep doing that.”

Watt was part of the 4×100 meter relay team consisting exclusively of underclassmen (two sophomores and two freshmen). The experience of competing at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Oregon is something she will never forget.

“It was incredible,” Watt said. “Jada (Moore) and I were talking about how I remember watching these meets in high school with my dad and not really thinking I would ever be there, and so to be there was awesome. It was surreal to see all those athletes and to know that I’m amongst them.”

Head coach Shelia Burrell set the goal of winning the conference championship at the beginning of the season. All meets during the season were in preparation for the MWC Championships. 

During practices and meets, athletes aimed to run, jump and throw at their best by the time the championship came around. At the conference championships, the Aztecs recorded five marks that rank among the top five all-time in school history.

Performances at the MWC Championships helped 14 athletes earn All-Mountain West Team honors. Burrell won MWC Coach of the Year, her fifth time earning the honor.

Winning the MWC Championship stands out for Watt as the highlight of the season.

“That day and that energy was awesome,” Watt said. “We were just trying to get top three and I didn’t even think I was going to score that day, and then we ended up winning.”

Watt and her 4×100 meter relay teammates will return next year and will look to improve upon an impressive season.

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