Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
Track & field signs three
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 02/08/2012
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MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho director of track and field/cross country Wayne Phipps announced the signing of the first three student-athletes in the team’s 2012 recruiting class on Wednesday.

The Vandals added Marquita Palmer and Stephanie Rexus on the women’s side and Bertrand Alcaraz Garcia for the men in the spring signing period.

Palmer is a middle distance runner from Weiser, Idaho (Weiser HS). She is a five-time Idaho 3A state placer in track and field and is a four-time state placer in cross country, including an individual state title in 2009 as a sophomore. She was the Idaho 3A state runner-up in 2008 and 2011.

She finished second in both the 1600m (5:15.33) and 3200m (11:23.94) and third in the triple jump (34-6) at the 2011 Idaho 3A state meet as a junior and led Weiser High School to a 10th-place team finish. As a sophomore in 2010, she took second in the 800m (2:21.79) and 10th in the triple jump (31-8) as Weiser finished 14th in the team standings.

“She’s a great all-around athlete,” Phipps said. “She played basketball, she did the triple jump, she’s a 4.0 student and that’s exactly what we look for in a student-athlete, so we couldn’t be more excited for her to be a Vandal next year.”

Last summer, Palmer broke out with a second-place finish at the 2011 USA Track & Field Junior Olympics in the 1500m with a time of 4:38.69 in the Young Women’s division. She ran a lifetime-best 4:35.61 in the qualifying round at the meet. She was also the 2011 Region 11 USATF Junior Olympic champion in the 800m, 1500m and 3200m.

“We’re very impressed by Marquita,” Phipps said. “She had an amazing summer, and I feel like she’s someone who’s not only at a high level right now, but is also someone who has room for a lot of improvement, both on the track and in cross country.”

Rexus is also a distance runner from Kennewick, Wash. (Kamiakin HS). At the 2011 Washington 3A State Cross Country Championship in the fall, she posted a fourth-place finish in 18:15.0 and was named 2011 All-Area Female Runner of the Year by the Tri-City Herald.

As a junior in cross country, Rexus was named to the Tri-City Herald All-Area First Team after finishing eighth at the 2010 Washington 3A state meet. She was a two-time Washington 3A All-State selection and led Kamiakin to back-to-back fourth-place state finishes in cross country to give the school state trophies in consecutive years for the first time.

Rexus also ran for Washington in the 2011 Nike Border Clash and helped lead her team to a win over top runners from Oregon with an eighth-place overall finish in 16:28 on the 4,387m course. She was the second-fastest senior finisher in the competition.

“I think Stephanie will probably end up being in the longer distance events, and she really had a breakthrough year in cross country,” Phipps said. “She finished fourth at the state meet and on top of that, she goes to the Border Clash between Oregon and Washington – two of the best states for distance runners – and finishes eighth.”

Rexus finished her cross country career as Kamiakin’s school record holder in the 3-mile and 5000m distances, and also holds the school record in the 3200m on the track.

Phipps said the team’s back-to-back Western Athletic Conference women’s cross country team titles, along with the team’s multiple NCAA qualifiers and WAC champions in the distance events, has helped push Idaho into the spotlight, especially in the distance events.

“I have to give the credit to our current girls for how well they’ve been running, because they’ve put our name out there and we’ve really gotten a lot of attention from some quality student-athletes,” Phipps said. “I definitely feel like our recent successes contributed to us signing Stephanie and Marquita.”

Alcaraz Garcia is a sprinter from Cartagena, Spain, but he’s already familiar with the state of Idaho. As an exchange student at Buhl High School in 2008-09, he won four Idaho 3A state titles and broke one state record for the Indians as a junior.

In 2009, he won the Idaho 3A individual state titles in the 100m (11.02), 200m (21.79) and 400m (48.79), and ran the anchor leg of the team’s 4x400m relay. His 400m time from that meet still stands as the Idaho 3A state record.

Since moving back to Spain, Alcaraz Garcia has continued to improve. He earned a spot representing Spain in the 400m at the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships, where he finished sixth in 49.63. He also represented his home country at the 2011 European Junior Championships and took seventh in the 400m with a time of 47.48. He holds a career-best time of 47.47 in the event.

“He’s an amazing 400m runner, but he can also do the 100 and 200,” Phipps said. “He’ll come in with a lot of experience under his belt, so I don’t think he’s going to be intimidated at all by the Division I level.

“He’s already spent a year in the state of Idaho and he’s already seen the campus and he loved it, so I think the transition for him is going to be a lot easier than most international students.”

Phipps said he’s very excited about the first three pieces of the 2012 recruiting class, and that he hopes it’s just the beginning for the team’s recruiting this season.

“For us to get this quality of signees this early in the process really bodes well for our entire class this season,” Phipps said.
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