This Week in Idaho Track & Field
WAC Indoor Championships
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The University of Idaho track and field team heads to Albuquerque, N.M., to compete in the Western Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship which runs Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 21-23.
Idaho director of track and field Wayne Phipps said now that the decision-making process of placing people in events is finished, the excitement of the meet has kicked in.
“It plays on your nerves a lot,” Phipps said of the entry process. “In the last three days leading up to the meet, I have gone over the entries 1000 times. I can’t tell you how often I looked at it to make sure I didn’t make a mistake, or overlook somebody.”
The Vandal men return to the WAC Championships as defending conference champions after winning the WAC Indoor Championship last year at Nampa, Idaho.
“I feel really good about the men’s team this season,” Phipps said. “We are more on the quality side than the quantity side, as opposed to the depth we had last year. We have the opportunity to win several conference championships and if we can do that, we’ll put ourselves into a good position.”
On the women’s side, the Vandals, who placed second overall last year, have many returning veterans competing on the roster.
“This is a great women’s conference with a lot of depth, which makes it really exciting” Phipps said. “Our women’s team has a lot of experience; the team is focused, motivated, and I have faith that they will perform well.”
Leading the way for the Vandal women is junior distance runner Hannah Kiser. Kiser holds the leading times in the WAC this season for both the mile (4:45.01) and the 3000m (9:04.74). Her 3000m time is a WAC all-time record and an Idaho school record, and also ranks fifth in NCAA so far this season. She is the two-time defending WAC champion in the 3000m and is undefeated in her track and field career versus WAC competition.
Also key for the women is senior sprinter Liga Velvere, the defending WAC champion in the 800m. She leads the WAC in the event so far this year, with a time of 2:07.83, which is the 41st-fastest in the NCAA so far this season.
Returning on the men’s side is sophomore sprinter Ben Ayesu-Attah. His time of 47.37 leads the WAC in the 400m and is 55th-fastest in the NCAA this season. Junior teammate Andrew Bloom ranks third in the 400m with a time of 47.96. Senior Barry Britt ran a career-best 4:07.33 in the mile last weekend at the Idaho Collegiate and enters the meet as the WAC’s top-ranked runner in the event.
Sophomore pole vaulter Matt Sullivan became the third Idaho man to clear 17 feet in the pole vault last weekend and will look to extend Idaho’s streak of five-consecutive WAC titles in the event. Sullivan’s vault of 17-0.75 (5.20m) Friday at the Idaho Collegiate ranks second-best in the WAC so far this season. Junior thrower Kyle Rothwell leads the WAC in the weight throw so far this season with a best of 62-10 (19.15m).
With many of these top marks coming in the last few meets, head track and field coach Julie Taylor said those are the kinds of performances the team needs at conference.
“It is great to see these kids really excel and come through on the last few meets,” Taylor said. “Matt Sullivan’s vaults get better every time and Kyle Rothwell seems to have a career-best mark every time he throws.”
While Idaho’s women have won five WAC cross country titles and two outdoor conference titles since 2001, the Vandals haven’t won an indoor team title since the 1983 Mountain West Athletic Conference Championships. Senior thrower Kristine Leonard is ready to bring another one back to Idaho.
“We have been talking about it this whole year and especially after last year when we got second,” Leonard said. “I want some bling, everyone else has bling.”
“If we don’t win a championship, it is not lack of trying, effort, or hard work” Phipps said. “This group has put in everything you would expect to be successful and I’m excited to see how we perform.”
The Idaho men’s team comes into the meet with four returning WAC champions – Ayesu-Attah, Bloom, senior James Clark and senior Kyle Tylor. Bloom and Clark ran on last season’s WAC champion distance medley relay, while Ayesu-Attah, Bloom and Tylor also ran legs of the team’s first-place 4x400m relay.
Kiser, a five-time WAC indoor champion in the mile, 3000m (twice) and distance medley relay (twice), leads a group of five Vandal women with WAC indoor gold to their credit. Velvere is a four-time champion between the 800m and distance medley relay, while senior Lauren Schaffer was the 2010 WAC 800m champion and seniors Anna Kalbrener and Keli Hall ran legs of the team’s 2011 first-place distance medley relay.
The WAC Championships kick off Thursday with the men’s heptathlon beginning at 10:00 a.m. (PT). The women’s pentathlon will start the same day at 10:30 a.m. The individual portion of the meet starts on Friday with the women’s high jump at 12:30 p.m.