T-Bird Men Capture Conference Track & Field Title; Women Finish Second
May 18, 2009
Southern Utah track and field used a dramatic finish over the course of the final two events to capture the men's outdoor track and field conference title in front of the home crowd at the Eccles Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. The women were right on the heels of North Dakota State, finishing in second place with the Bison claiming the conference crown.
The Thunderbirds came from behind in the team standings during the men's 5,000-meters as Nigel Sharp (15:03.58), Nate Jewkes (15:04.00) and Cameron Levins (15:12.88) finished first, second and third in the event. Kevin Sandall crossed the finish line in sixth place with a finishing time of 15:31.22 to bring Southern Utah's point total from the event to 27.
The T-Birds then locked up the trophy as the men's 4x400-meter relay team blazed to a first-place finishing time of 3:11.95, breaking the Eccles Coliseum record as Austin Hill ran the anchor leg in 45.08 seconds. The men finished the meet with a total score of 220, followed by North Dakota State (202) and Western Illinois with 101. South Dakota State (99), Oral Roberts (68), UMKC (67) and Oakland (56) rounded out the team scores.
Southern Utah's men benefited from several performances throughout the day as Shaka Richardson finished second in the men's 100-meters (10.68) and then finished just behind Hill in the men's 200-meters as the duo finished second and third in the event with finishing times of 21.87 and 21.98, respectively.
Levins returned to the medal stand in the men's 1,500-meters as he captured the individual crown with a first-place time of 3:56.04. Kelly VanArsdol and Shain Manuele earned the silver and bronze medal, respectively, for their performances in the men's 400-meter hurdles. VanArsdol finished the lap around the track in 53.61 with Manuele crossing the line at 54.68.
The men's 4x100-meter relay team was the final medal winner on the track for the men as Kaihe Akina, Hill, Matt Howard and Richardson finished in third place with a time of 41.80.
In the field events, Carlos Valle entered the men's discus competition as the No. 1 seed and delivered with a first-place mark of 180 feet seven inches, more than 16 feet farther than the silver medalist. Forrest Ledbetter found his way onto the medal stand with a second-place finish in the men's javelin with a mark of 181 feet 11 inches.
At the conclusion of the meet, Valle was named The Summit League Outdoor Track and Field Championships MVP with Jewkes earning the Newcomer of the Year award. Head coach Eric Houle was also awarded his 33rd Conference Coach of the Year award after coaching the team to victory.
On the women's side, Southern Utah finished with 185 points, trailing NDSU who finished the meet with 208.5 points. South Dakota State (136.5) finished third with Oral Roberts (96), Western Illinois (95), Oakland (50.5), UMKC (23) and IPFW (20.5) closing out the list.
Sharae Hill was a catalyst in the women's success with a first-place finish in the women's 100-meters with a school and facility-record time of 11.63. Hill also ran the lead-off leg of the women's 4x100-meter relay team that captured the first gold medal of the afternoon. She narrowly missed three gold medals in one day, running third in the women's 4x400-meter relay team that finished second.
Her teammate in the 4x400-meter relay, Christina Day, raced to a first-place finish in the women's 400-meter dash (53.89), breaking the facility record in the process during the run. A third member of the relay team, Chelsea Allen was able to hang a silver medal around her neck in the women's 200-meters with a second-place finishing time of 24.45.
Freshman Kaylee Coates scored six points for the Thunderbirds in the women's 800-meters after leading the race most of the way, but finishing third with a time of 2:16.36. Coates was behind North Dakota State's Laura Hermanson in the race as Diana Medina also finished behind Hermanson in the women's 1,500-meters, earning the silver medal with a second-place time of 4:44.41.
Medina later returned to the track during the women's 5,000-meters to capture her second piece of hardware during the day with a first-place and facility-record time of 17:41.04.
In the field events, Kristi Koplin took home her second silver medal of the weekend with a second-place finish in the women's discus after recording a mark of 156 feet two inches. SUU throwers narrowly missed a medal sweep in the women's javelin as Nicole Creer (141 feet five inches), Amber Madril (140 feet six inches) and Jacki Stoddard (130 feet eight inches) finished second, third and fourth, respectively.
The track and field season will now continue for the athletes that have qualified for the NCAA regional meet that will be held over the weekend of May 29-30. Southern Utah already had 11 student-athletes who had punched their tickets for the event with qualifying marks during the season, but they will be joined by six more Thunderbirds by way of individual titles from the Summit League Championship.