Courtesy: Spencer Farrin (Pullman, Wash.)
|Vandals open WAC strongly|
MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho decathlete Andrew Blaser knew he needed a strong first day at the Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships, both for himself and for the team, and on Tuesday, the senior came up aces.
Blaser won each of the five disciplines on the meet’s opening day, capped it off with a career-best 49.64 in the 400m dash and ended up with a career-best day-one score of 3,792 to lead the men’s decathlon.
“I feel really good with the day,” Blaser said. “It was kind of an unspoken goal of mine to win all five, so it felt great to actually make that happen.”
Blaser is looking for a second-consecutive NCAA trip in the 110m hurdles and a potential first career trip in the decathlon, where he currently ranks 36th nationally. A strong start in Wednesday’s opening event, the 110m hurdles, could give him a strong step toward those goals.
“I’m looking forward to the hurdles and I’m hoping to really push the envelope and try to put myself in a spot to get to nationals,” Blaser said. “When you’ve got four more events after it, having confidence after that race is so important.”
Across the way, Vandal freshman Johanna Hocketstaller had an eventful day of her own with career bests in each of her four events in the women’s heptathlon. The first-year Vandal from Eiselfing, Germany, posted a 99-point career-best day one score of 3,030 and sits at third in the event.
“It was almost perfect,” Hocketstaller said of her day. “The weather and facility were amazing and the coaches were great today.”
Hocketstaller said her opening personal record in the 100m hurdles (15.36) gave her a flood of confidence as she tied her high jump best at 4-11.5 (1.51m) and then obliterated her best in the shot put with a 49-6.25 (15.09m) on her very first attempt. That toss is a PR by more than one foot and puts her at fourth in Idaho history in the event.
“It was really nice to get into the right position and get all the power into the shot,” Hocketstaller said. “I just knew it was flying – it was a really nice feeling.”
For juniors Jeremy Klas and Colin Briggs, Tuesday marked their first career decathlon competitions, while redshirt freshman Reba Eggert made her career debut in a heptathlon.
Briggs (3,139) and Klas (3,051) ended day one at third and fourth, respectively, behind second-place Jon Goble of Utah State, who has a score of 3,289. Idaho director of track and field/cross country Wayne Phipps said that, despite their experience with the heptathlon indoors, the outdoor decathlon is a completely different beast.
“I couldn’t be happier with Jeremy and Colin,” Phipps said. “They did that heptathlon indoors, but the decathlon is so different and more difficult and for them to step up and do this for the team is great. They both had some great events today and it’s nice to see all their hard work pay off.”
Eggert saw the highs and lows of competition in her first outdoor multi-event. She opened the day with a career-best 17.13 in the 100m hurdles and suffered a no-height in the high jump, only to follow up with a nearly two-foot best in the shot put of 37-6.25 (11.45m). She ran a 28.51 in the 200m to finish up her day with a score of 1,798.
Each of Idaho’s multi-athletes echoed the sentiment that they take it upon themselves to set the tone for their teams in the championship meet’s first events.
“When everyone sees you come out and leave it out there with season bests and solid performances, it lets them know that they can do the same thing,” Blaser said. “You get to watch someone perform, and then come back and say, ‘Okay, now it’s my turn.’”
Wednesday’s competition for the men includes the 110m hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and 1500m. The women will compete in the long jump, javelin throw and 800m run. The meet resumes at 1 p.m. (PT) with the decathlon 110m hurdles, while the women get started with the long jump at 1:30 p.m.