Crunch Time

Crunch Time

AZUSA, Calif. – The Belmont track and field programs have had this week circled on the calendar all season, and the reasons are twofold.

The Bryan Clay Invitational, which begins in Azusa, Calif., on Thursday, is the teams' last national-caliber meet of the season. And with just three weeks now until the Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Championships, the Bruins are looking to begin their final push to the peak.

That starts with the Bryan Clay Invitational, a massive track meet in Southern California that has drawn record high entries this year numbering close to 5,000. The competition level will be intense, giving the select few Bruins headed there instead of the Georgia Tech Invitational the best chance to post personal-best marks.

"This is definitely one of those meets where they can PR because of the conditions and because of the field where their competition is so high," Belmont Assistant Track Coach Kate Bucknam said of the Bryan Clay Invitational. "The goal is to get out there and get in some really good times and build some confidence going into championship season."

Just seven Belmont runners and one thrower will be in attendance in California. Senior Courtney Alama (Annadale, Minn.), juniors Kortney Schardt (Lindenhurst, Ill.) and Sierra Lax (Columbus, Ind.) and freshman Claire Cheeseman (Brentwood, Tenn.) will all run in the women's 5,000 meters Thursday. Senior Karly Hibbard (Edmonds, Wash.) will throw the javelin and shot put on Friday.

On the men's side the McLeod brothers, junior Kaleb and freshman Jacob (Soperton, Ga.), will also be in action in the 5,000 with junior Declan McManus (Worcestershire, England) running the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Those races will also be contested Thursday.

The rest of the Bruin crew will be closer to home in Atlanta, Ga. The Georgia Tech Invitational will supply similarly high competition for Belmont, though with a smaller field of entrants, as the Bruins eye the homestretch of the outdoor season.

The season comes to a climax May 9-11 in Cape Girardeau, Mo., at the OVC Outdoor Championships.