CEDAR CITY – The Southern Utah University men’s and women’s track and field teams competed in the 2014 Big Sky Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships Wednesday through Saturday in Flagstaff, Arizona. The men’s team finished strong in 3rd place, while the women stood their ground finishing 9th overall.
“We had a ton of good performances, for us to get in there with a bunch of teams – 11 really good teams – and to be able to get 3rd is really really good for us,” said Eric Houle, SUU track and field head coach, “especially in this conference; it’s one of the tougher conferences.”
Referring to the men’s team, Houle said: “We had good performances, from the triple jump, to the 100-meter dash, through the 800-meters, to the javelin.”
Sophomore Eric Sandall won an individual conference championship in the 800-meters by nearly one second, with a time of 1:53.83, only 11 months after returning from an LDS mission.
“Going in I was ranked fourth, but the top five were all really close,” Sandall said. “So going in I knew that I had the potential to win, but I knew it was going to be hard.”
Athletes that competed in the 800-meters – besides Sandall and Sacramento State’s, Nathanael Litwiller – competed in the 1500-meters only hours before.
“I didn’t put Eric in the 1500, because I wanted him to be fresh for the 800,” Houle said.
The strategy paid off, getting the sophomore his first individual conference win.
“Coming into the final, a lot of those guys ran the 1500 earlier, and so I knew that my best shot was just to go out hard and hopefully they would feel it in their legs,” Sandall said. “I just went out hard from the get go.”
2013 Big Sky Conference Outdoor Track 100-meter dash champion, senior Shaun Murray came into the 2014 championships winning the event for the second year in a row with a time of 10.34 seconds.
“I was pretty shocked coming in,” Murray said. “I wasn’t expecting to do that good.”
Not only did Murray defend his title, but he was awarded the men’s Most Outstanding Performer.
Other men’s standouts were senior Anthony Brown who finished 3rd in the steeplechase with a 9:42.25, senior Nate Jewkes finished 2nd in the 10,000-meters with a 31:08.17, and sophomore Jayson Kovar finished 2nd in the discus throw with a mark of 53.55 meters.
Senior Alex Anderson took 1st in the triple jump with a jump of 15.26 meters, and Russell Nielson brought home the win in the Javelin throw with a mark of 62.42 meters.
“On the women’s side I think we did as good as we could,” Houle said.
Senior Kayla Kovar led the women with three strong finishes in each of her events.
Kovar finished 2nd in hammer throw with a mark of 62.86 meters, a 2nd place finish in the discus with a throw of 49.47 meters, and she led the pack with a win in the shot put with a 1st place mark of 15.67 meters.
“Shot put was a little difficult at first, but I was able to pull out a pretty good throw on my last throw in competition and ended up winning that,” Kovar said. “That felt pretty good.”
Other women standouts were junior Aubrey Bryson with an 800-meters 2nd place finish of 2:12.31, and Ashley Hawks finished 3rd in the 1,500-meters with a time of 4:38.79.
The 11 universities that competed in the conference championship were, Northern Arizona University, along with Weber State University, Eastern Washington University, Idaho State University, University of Montana, Montana State University, University of North Dakota, University of Northern Colorado, Portland State University and Sacramento State.
For full results from the 2014 Big Sky Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships visit the championship headquarters.
Various athletes from SUU will be selected to compete in the first round of the NCAA Championships at the 2014 NCAA West Preliminary Round in Fayetteville, Ark., May 29-31.
Those who place well enough in the east and west preliminary rounds will advance to the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon on June 11 through 14.
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