As spring comes around, my thoughts always turn back to my erstwhile university days, running endless laps in the brisk sunny days of Husky Stadium whilst aspiring to whimsical and lofty podium achievements. Today, Husky Stadium is being rebuilt only for football while the old track has been relinquished somewhere in the shadows of the school’s football tradition. That is simply a reflection of this countries lack of support for non revenue sports and perhaps why the USA no longer dominates Track and Field as it did in the fifties and sixties. I still recall my first big track meet in Husky Stadium in 1961, as a young 9th grader participating in the North American Latvian Championships in Seattle. That stadium was packed with nearly as many Latvians as we averaged at our Husky dual meets some years later. That Latvian track legacy still continues with new crops of Latvian kids participating in the NCAAs. I am always pleasantly surprised not only by their achievements but the location of their schools – trying to figure out the logical recruiting connection. In my mind, the love of the minor sports reflects the true nature of the NCAA Scholar Athlete – the amateurs love for sport as the adjunct to scholarship.
Topping this years Track & Field list is again Mara Griva who currently leads the nation as the #1 Triple Jumper with a distance of 45’ 3 ¾” or 13.81 M and is also ranked #2 in the Long Jump with a mark of 21’ 11 ¾” or 6.70M – very, very impressive for the Nebraska Husker Junior from Ventspils, Latvia. Last year she hit the national spot light claiming four Big 12 titles and earning four All-America honors. Her list of results is excellent and well stated on the Nebraska Track & Field website for examination. Considering her success in this year’s indoor season – her spring showing should be interesting. Mara’s best in Latvia has been 3rd in both events at the Latvian National Championships. Nice write up about Mara at:
USC Trojan Senior Kristine Busa will finish her Trojan career this season as one of the top female javelin throwers in USC history. She has the second-farthest toss ever by a Trojan female of 179-1 (54.78m), seven-feet, nine-inches off the school record. She struggled through last year’s season due to a knee injury and subsequent surgery. Currently she ranks #8 in the country with a toss of 172’ 7” or 52.6M and should be fun to follow this spring in the PAC 12 and NCAAs. I look to some good results from this determined athlete following in the Latvian tradition of javelin throwers.
Last year, the University of Connecticut freshman, Ilva Bikanova from Madona, placed 14th in the High Jump at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa and accordingly, earned Second Team All-America honors. Bikanova becomes UConn’s 13th high jumper to be named All-American. “Ilva did a great job early in the competition, especially with her first attempt clearance of 1.76M. As one of only three freshmen in the competition at her first NCAA Championship, it was remarkable for her to add to the program’s high jump All-America titles” said head coach Bill Morgan. So far, this spring Ilva is ranked #18 in the nation with a jump of 5’11 ¼” or 1.81M.
The Idaho Vandals now have connected to two Latvian track athletes. The female new comer to the national rankings is Junior Liga Velvere, listed as #32 in the 400M Hurdles with a time of 58.61 run last weekend. Last season, Liga was first spotlighted when she earned the Western Athletic Conference Verizon Women’s Track Athlete of the Week for her Vandal team. She is from Saldus, Latvia (Latvian Academy of Sport). Her time last year of 59.30 is the fastest by an Idaho runner in 10 years – so this year’s time might put her on the school record. She also helps the Vandal women’s 4x400m relay team as the anchor along with having respectable times in the 200 and 800 meter events.
The other Vandal is sophomore Ugis Svazs who had a good showing in the men’s javelin at Sacramento last weekend. Ugis tossed a career best of 215-3 (65.61m) to finish second in the event and move into second best in the WAC. That throw bumps him to sixth all-time at Idaho, 46th in the NCAA rankings and 26th in the West Region in the event. Ugis is from Kuldiga, Latvia (Murjanu Sport Gymnasium).
Leading the traditional Latvian Javelin pack this year again is Martins Pildavs from Troy University in Alabama – currently ranked #7 with a toss of 75.30M at Mobile, Alabama last weekend. Last year he set school record in the javelin throw with a distance of 73.32 meters ranking him tenth in the 2011 NCAA. Two years ago he won the Jr. College NCAA Javelin Champion and placed third in the Hammer and was also recognized as an All-American in the Discus at the JC level. Pildavs father Normands, was the Latvian Champion several years in the early 90s and participated in the Olympics in the Javelin.