Dominic Giovannoni knows his track and field history.
The UCLA senior knows that the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., the site of this week’s NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, is one of the world’s most famous track and field venues. He knows how loud the 10,500-seat facility can get.
The track is hot, Giovannoni said.
“Everybody in track and field knows Hayward Field,” he said. “It’s more the history than anything else. It’s always been ‘Track Town USA.’ ”
Giovannoni has the experience of competing at Hayward Field to fall back on going into the national meet. He made six trips to the historic stadium, which has covered grandstands, with the Napa Track Club. He has also been there twice as a member of the UCLA Bruins.
“It’s a great track,” he said. “The atmosphere here is unmatched. There’s nothing like ‘Track Town USA, Hayward Field. There’s huge history, great supporters, the stands are always packed. You know the atmosphere is going to be great. It’s just whether or not you bring what you’ve got.”
Giovannoni, a team captain, will be making his first NCAA appearance in the decathlon for the Bruins. He put himself into national contention early in the 2013 season with a lifetime best 7,558 point performance at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays.
At the Pac-12 Championships, the Napa native improved his personal record to 7,634 points, finishing third overall with a result that ranks No. 7 all-time in UCLA history. Known for his sprint and vault abilities, Giovannoni has set personal-bests in six individual events in 2013, making him a contender for the individual crown and All-America honors.
“I feel really good,” he said by phone from Eugene, located in the southern end of the Willamette Valley, on Monday night. “My season has progressed pretty much exactly how I wanted it to so far. I started well and just built on it.
“I very much have enough gas in the tank. That shouldn’t be the issue. I’ve just got to make sure I stay focused and do what I’ve got to do. As badly as I want to PR and as badly as I want to put up the best score of my life, I can’t chase numbers. I have to just go out there, stay relaxed and do what I know I can do.
“My body’s feeling great, my training’s been going great, my coaches have me ready to go. I think my coaches understand how badly I want this. They’re out there giving me the training, just making sure I’m staying focused, knowing what I have to do. They understand how much I want this and they respect that.”
Giovannoni and Tatum Souza, a junior who is also from Napa, are two of the three Bruins’ combined athletes at the meet, which began Wednesday and ends on Saturday. Souza is entered in the women’s heptathlon. Both are Napa High School graduates.
Giovannoni and Souza are both ranked inside the top-15 nationally.
Of the 24 athletes in the men’s decathlon, Giovannoni is 13th on the performance list. Souza is ninth out of 24 entrants in the heptathlon, with a 5,624-point total.
Giovannoni led the Bruins in the 110-meter hurdles as well as the decathlon this year. On April 27, he jumped a personal best in the pole vault (17-0) en route to a second-place finish in a dual meet victory over USC. In 2012, he placed fifth in the decathlon (6,891 points) and 10th in the 110 hurdles (14.69) at Pac-12 Championships. Prior to coming to UCLA, he had a decathlon-best 6,507 points competing for Northern Arizona.
“There’s guys who go out there, they do their one event,” he said. “If that doesn’t go well, they don’t have anything else. For me, if I make a mistake in discus, I can move on to pole vault or hurdles, have something great happen there, and really turn my day around. I really appreciate everything that the decathlon is and what it represents. The fact that you’re the first one out there working, you’re the last one leaving, it feels good.”
Giovannoni, 22, is closing out his UCLA career this week. But since he has already attained the “B” standard, he will go to the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, set for June 20-23, in Des Moines, Iowa.
“This won’t be the end of my track career, which is pretty comforting,” said Giovannoni. “But at the same time, it’s my last chance to compete as a UCLA athlete — that’s a big one for me. I’d like to go out with a bang.”
An event-by-event look at Giovannoni’s lifetime best marks in the decathlon: 100 meters (11.07), 400 meters (49.57), 1,500 meters (4:41.00), 110-meter hurdles (14.40), long jump (22-113⁄4), shot put (46-103⁄4), high jump (6-63⁄4), discus throw (141-2), pole vault (17-0) and javelin (158-9).
“This year, coming into the meet, being 13th, knowing that I can do better than that, I think is really big for me,” he said. “I need to go out there and prove to myself that I belong.”
Souza set personal bests in six of the seven heptathlon events this season, which culminated in a 274-point increase for her heptathlon lifetime best. As with Giovannoni, her personal-best (5,624 points) came at the 2013 Pac-12 Championships (No. 7 all-time in UCLA history). Souza was the Pac-12 runner-up in the combined event as she improved her PR in the 200 meters (25.20), 800 (2:16.87) as well as the high jump (5-61⁄2) at the conference meet.
Souza will be making her second NCAA appearance, but her first in the heptathlon. In 2012, she received an All-America honorable mention for her 21st place finish in the women’s 4x400 relay.
Souza finished seventh or better in all heptathlon appearances during the 2013 outdoor season.