Courtesy: Spencer Farrin (Moscow, Idaho)
Andrew Blaser
Blaser defends multi crown
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 05/09/2012
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MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho senior Andrew Blaser gritted out a difficult second day of the Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships to earn his second-consecutive crown in the men’s decathlon on Wednesday.

While the Vandal senior won seven of the 10 events over two days and held a huge point margin nearly from start to finish, consistent strong winds and frequent gusts made for a tense day of competition for all athletes involved.

“It was great to get that win and it was even better for me to go into the banquet tonight knowing that we have 20 team points on lock,” Blaser said. “We kind of talked before the meet that we could probably go 1-3-5, and being able to make up those little differences was huge.”

Blaser won the meet’s opening event, the 110m hurdles, with a time of 13.95. It’s an all-conditions career best for the senior, but the 5.3 meters per second wind reading makes the time ineligible for NCAA or record-book consideration. He also got a boost on Wednesday after overcoming the wind to tie for the best height of 15-5 (4.70m) in the pole vault.

“Through six events, he was absolutely phenomenal,” Idaho director of track and field/cross country Wayne Phipps said of Blaser. “It’s really tough throwing the discus into the wind, and with those conditions, it makes it almost impossible to perform at the level he needed to in the vault. After that, it was just about securing the win as easily as possible to conserve himself for the rest of the week.”

Along with Blaser’s title win at 6,782 points, junior Colin Briggs broke through with his first career First-Team All-WAC honor at third place with a score of 5,928. Junior Jeremy Klas took fourth and earned Second-Team All-WAC honors to give the Vandals 20 team points through one event.

Impressive still is the fact that Briggs and Klas were competing in the first decathlon of their respective careers.

“I’m really excited that I placed third and finally got First-Team All-WAC,” Briggs, a six-time All-WAC Second Team honoree, said. “I’m not happy that I didn’t get to 6,000, but with the wind and the conditions what they were, I’m still very glad to get third place.”

In the women’s heptathlon, freshman Johanna Hocketstaller parlayed a strong first day with two more career-best marks on Wednesday to take WAC runner-up honors with a career-best score of 5,071. It’s her first time breaking the 5,000-point barrier in the event and her first All-WAC First Team honor.

It capped off a very tight battle at the top in the competition, where New Mexico State’s Zoe Meade won with 5,109 and Samantha Balentine of Hawai`i was third at 5,015. All three held a lead at some point during the seven-event competition.

“Before my third throw in the javelin, my best was 36 meters and that would have put me in third,” Hocketstaller said of the final standings. “If I had hit my personal best in the javelin, I would have finished first. It was so close with the three girls at the top, and it was a really good competition.”

Hocketstaller becomes the sixth woman in Idaho history to join the 5,000-point club in the heptathlon and in the last two days, she tied two career bests and set four more in the seven events of the competition.

Like Briggs and Klas, redshirt freshman Reba Eggert competed in her first career outdoor multi-event this week. She caught a bit of adversity with a no-height in the high jump on Tuesday, but rebounded to set one career best and score 3,113 points for a ninth-place finish.

With one event in the books on each side, Idaho carries a 20-11 lead over Utah State on the men’s side going into Thursday, while the Vandal women are in third with eight points behind New Mexico State’s 13 and UH’s 10.

“I think that’s probably the two things we were hoping for in terms of team points,” Phipps said. “We got eight for the women and 20 on the men’s side, so that was absolutely perfect for us.”

Thursday opens the individual event portion of the meet and the men’s hammer throwers get the first opportunity to compete, starting at 11 a.m. (PT). The track events are scheduled to start at 3 p.m. with the finals in the men’s and women’s 3000m steeplechase.
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