Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor
Anything can happen in a rivalry meet but the USC track and field team is focused and ready to execute its game plan in order to defeat UCLA on Sunday at Drake Stadium. For new head track coach Caryl Smith Gilbert, it will be her first rivalry dual meet ,and despite a couple sleepless nights she's adamant that the Trojans are prepared for victory.
"Anything can happen so we're just trying to push for those special performances that no one expects," said the head coach. "Those are going to be what sets you up to win a meet that is this emotional."
The Trojans enter this dual meet against their crosstown rival with the women ranked eighth facing an unranked UCLA team and the men coming in at number 12 just one spot ahead of the Bruins. Last year, the USC women were upset by the Bruins snapping a five-year winning streak while the men lost as well. This year both the men and women are locked and loaded to seek revenge on Sunday.
"I feel confident not only in myself but in our team," said junior 400m Vanessa Jones. "Last year we were projected to win and we didn't so it just made us humble ourselves. You never know what they might do so you just have to be humble and go in there like warriors. We just need to focus and execute on all of our races so that we can actually win."
USC certainly has the talent to perform exceptionally at Sunday's meet as they boast the best collegiate 110m hurdler in Aleec Harris and the top hammer thrower in Remington Conatser. USC also has 21 of the top 25 marks in the country which they are hoping to add more to come Sunday.
Not only is there pressure on the Trojans to defeat their crosstown rival, but the dual meet is their last competition before heading into Pac-12 Championship competition. However, under the leadership of the new coaching staff, the athletes feel as if they are ready to tackle anything that comes at them.
"I'm telling them to think about what it is they really want and go after it. They've been to some of the greatest competitions, and they've faced some of the greatest competitors in the country. We had a great indoor campaign and we're ranked really high," said Smith Gilbert. "Now, they've got to go out and set the track on fire, set the ring on fire, set the pit on fire. They need to make some really big marks and just do the best they can. Give it 100 percent and leave it all on the track. Don't leave anything to chance because anything can happen in a rivalry and things you don't expect will happen.
The entire team has been working hard all season already capturing the indoor championship in Smith Gilbert's first season as head coach. Now, it's time to gear up for the greatest rivalry meet in the nation and the start of postseason competition.