|T&F rolls in Pullman|
PULLMAN, Wash. - The University of Idaho men's and women's track and field teams got the ball rolling last week, and on Saturday at the Cougar Invitational, things kept going well for the Vandals.
"It was amazing having this type of day after the week we've had of weather," Idaho director of track and field Wayne Phipps said. "We didn't compete a ton of people, but the people we did performed very well today."
Sophomore Sarah Nutsch started Idaho's day with a four-foot career-best in the women's hammer, then the 4x400m relay group of Karlene Hurrel, Keli Hall, Lauren Schaffer and Liga Velvere put a cap on it with a meet-record time of 3:45.10 in a winning effort.
"The 4x400 was probably the highlight for me," Phipps said. "I was really excited about the way they competed and raced against the clock toward the end, and they were really motivated for that race."
Vandals claimed seven titles, five women's and two men's, and made five entries into the Idaho all-time top 10. Additionally, Idaho athletes hit 15 personal bests on the day.
Before their impressive relay, Velvere, a sophomore, and Schaffer, a junior, ran the second- and third-best times in Idaho history in the individual 400m. Velvere won the event with a 55.47, while Schaffer followed close behind in 55.75.
"It was Liga's first 400m of the year, and I thought that was pretty solid for her, and even though it's not her main event, Lauren ran really well, too," Phipps said.
Nutsch improved on her fifth all-time standing in the women's hammer with a toss of 173-3 (52.80m) and took second behind teammate Gabby Midles, who hit 184-11 (56.36m) to win the event. Sophomore Kristine Leonard also threw well and posted a win in the shot put at 41-8.5 (12.71m), then tossed a career-best 157-10 (48.11m) to move into sixth all-time at Idaho in the discus.
"That's a good day for Kristine," Idaho head coach Julie Taylor said. "She had a few bad habits that we're trying to break and change, but she's getting better and better technically, and that's why her marks are going up."
Junior Donavon Cunningham played in the Idaho football spring game in the morning, then came back in the afternoon and nailed a career-best 170-3 (51.89m) to take second in the discus. His throw is also second-best in the Western Athletic Conference this year.
"The kid has been doing football and hasn't been able to compete much, so for him to come out and throw a PR is pretty huge," Idaho head coach Julie Taylor said. "Donavon is an amazing athlete."
Senior Eugenio Mannucci claimed the men's shot put title (56-1.25, 17.10m), while sophomore Colin Briggs won the men's triple jump with a career-best 45-11.25 (14.00m). Junior Rendel Jones took second in the triple with an Idaho career-best 45-3.5 (13.80m).
Hurrel, a sophomore, was the fifth Vandal women's champion, as she ran a career-best 12.27 in the women's 100m.
Junior Andrew Blaser doubled up on personal bests in the throws just a week after hitting six bests in the decathlon. He threw the javelin 142-2 (43.33m), then hit 33-1 (10.08m) in the shot put. He also cleared 14-9.5 (4.51m) in the pole vault and took second in the 110m hurdles (14.85).
Freshman Emily Paradis took fourth in the women's 800m with a personal-best 2:16.18, while fellow freshman Cait Rowland hit a PB 1:06.99 in a fourth-place finish in the 400m hurdles. On the men's side, Andrew Bloom (2nd, 49.63) and Jeff Jacka (7th, 50.41) ran bests in the 400m, sophomores Jeff Osborn (4th, 4:01.83) and Lars Lunstrum (10th, 4:22.79) had PBs in the 1500m and freshman Adam Bunch ran a career-best 57.28 in a third-place finish in the 400m hurdles.
Next week, the Vandal teams will split between the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford, and the Duane Hartman Invitational at Spokane, Wash. Phipps said he hopes to see more of the same from his team.
"We're trying to finalize some top-eight, top-12 times in the conference, so we'll be racing everybody next weekend to try to move people up in the WAC, and we want to try to secure some people in their bids to nationals," Phipps said. "It's going to be hard to replicate what we did last year at NCAAs, but I'm very pleased with how many we've got, and how high some of them are (in the NCAA West Region rankings)."