Courtesy: Spencer Farrin (Pullman, Wash.)
|Starting out big|
MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho track and field wasted little time putting on a show in its brand new facility on Friday and Saturday with eight victories at the Vandal Jamboree in the inaugural meet at the Dan O’Brien Track & Field Complex.
Vandals won the first three events contested at the new digs, including a sweep of the men’s and women’s hammer throw on Friday afternoon and a men’s javelin victory with a major mark by junior Mike Marshall.
The walk-on thrower from Yakima, Wash., fired off a career-best toss of 230-6 (70.26m) to move him into third all-time at Idaho, 11th in the West Region and 24th in the NCAA in the event. The toss was a 13-foot career best and all but guarantees him a berth at the NCAA West Preliminary Round in three weeks.
“As soon as I let it go I knew it was a good one, but I didn’t think it was that good,” said Marshall, who added that his family almost didn’t travel over to watch. “We didn’t think it was going to be very good weather, but they said they really wanted to go and they’ve only seen me throw once, so it was nice to have them here for support – and to give them a show.”
One state over at the Oregon Twilight, a small group of Vandals competed in the distance events and sophomore Alycia Butterworth headlined for the Vandals with a career-best 10:18.78 in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. She finished seventh overall, but was the second collegiate finisher with a time that puts her at No. 11 in the West, No. 28 in the NCAA and third all-time at Idaho in the event.
Idaho director of track and field/cross country Wayne Phipps said it was nice to see that performance from Butterworth, who battled illness for several weeks at the start of the year.
“The crazy thing is, she’s actually not fully healthy yet,” Phipps said. “For her to run that fast after all she’s been through, I think in three weeks’ time at the first round of NCAAs, she’s going to be even better.”
In the women’s javelin throw, freshman Johanna Hocketstaller improved her No. 8 all-time standing at Idaho with a second-place finish and a career-best mark of 141-10 (43.23m). Junior Kristine Leonard tied Hocketstaller for eighth all-time at Idaho in the women’s shot put with a second-place mark of 47-11.25 (14.61m).
In the men’s pole vault, sophomore Dylan Watts got the better of freshman teammate Matt Sullivan to win the event based on attempts, but both set career bests after clearing 16-1.75 (4.92m) to move into joint possession of fourth all-time at Idaho.
Assistant coach Jason Graham said he was happy to see both vaulters set those bests, but also was impressed with how the two handled the heavy winds and difficult conditions throughout the competition.
“Vaulters are always looking for a nice tailwind, but today was a little too strong and it was really pushing them,” Graham said. “They really eventually found a very comfortable and consistent run. They worked through their adjustments and got comfortable with the wind pushing them so much, and they were able to replicate an effective run and it really helped them out.”
Those heavy winds throughout the day caused more headaches on the track, where some events had wind readings above the legal NCAA limit and all were impacted in one way or another.
“Any race that went all the way around the track, you could see people really struggling with the wind, “Phipps said. “The big winds also make it feel a little colder than it really is, so that made it tougher to warm up.”
Idaho also earned individual victories on the day from junior Jason Lorentz in the men’s long jump at 22-4.25 (6.81m), senior Andrew Blaser in the men’s 110m hurdles (14.19), sophomore Ailene MacPherson in the women’s 5000m in a career-best 20:10.02 and the women’s 4x100m relay group of Mercedes Blackwood, Allee Cooper, Emma Goode and Kelly Jacka.
Those winners joined sophomore Kyle Rothwell and senior Gabby Midles, who won the men’s and women’s hammer throws on Friday, respectively.
With less than one week before the WAC Championships, the Vandals showed that they’re starting to operate at their highest level. In addition to the eight wins, Idaho’s men and women tallied 13 individual career-best marks over the weekend.
Phipps and Taylor said the rebuilt track and field facility received several compliments from visiting coaches, competitors and fans, and that first home event at the venue was a definite success.
“The centerpiece is definitely the fantastic throws area, but we also have the ability to long and triple jump in both directions, to pole vault in any direction, to move the high jump around the whole D-zone and to run on this great new track surface,” Phipp said. “We’re just really excited about showcasing it to the rest of the WAC.”
That time will come on starting on Tuesday, when the WAC Championships kick off with the men’s decathlon and women’s heptathlon. The individual portion of the meet runs Thursday and Friday. Dan O’Brien and several University of Idaho leaders will be on hand at 11 a.m. (PT) Monday to officially dedicate the facility.