This Week in Vandal Track & Field:
NCAA West Prelminary (Austin, Texas) May 24-26
Fresh off a standout performance at the WAC Outdoor Championships two weeks ago at the Dan O’Brien Track & Field Complex, the WAC champion men’s team sends seven Vandals to the NCAA West Preliminary Round, while the runner-up women send a group of six to the meet. Since the new NCAA Championship format was established in 2010, this is largest group of Idaho athletes to qualify for the meet. In 2010, five men and seven women advanced and last year in 2011, Idaho sent four men and five women. The three-day meet starts on Thursday and runs through Saturday, with the top 12 finishers in each event advancing on to the NCAA Championships final rounds.
Idaho sent nine athletes to last year’s NCAA West Preliminary at Eugene, Ore. Three Vandals return from that group this season, highlighted by three-time qualifier Gabby Midles, a senior in the women’s hammer throw who is looking for her second career NCAA Championship finals bid in the event. Senior Andrew Blaser is a repeat qualifier in the 110m hurdles, where he finished 41st last season. After joining teammate Hannah Kiser as the first freshmen women in Idaho history to qualify for the NCAA meet last year, sophomore Alycia Butterworth looks to improve upon her 37th overall finish from a year ago. Midles was the last Vandal woman to advance to the NCAA final round, while Eugenio Mannucci (shot put) was the last Idaho man to do so, last season.
A Quick Recap
The meet didn’t have the same final drama as the WAC Indoor Championships, but the Vandal men completed the indoor/outdoor title sweep with 219.5 points, eight individual titles and 38 All-WAC honors. Perhaps more impressive were the Vandal women, who went into the meet without several key performers because of injuries and redshirts, but scored 133.5 points and took second after going into the meet projected to score 90 points and finish sixth. Idaho’s women tallied three individual WAC crowns and 17 All-WAC honors at the meet.
Nation’s Most Improved
Idaho men’s track and field showed the biggest conference meet improvement of all four-year collegiate track and field teams - at any level. After taking fifth with 85.33 points at last year’s WAC Outdoor Championships, Idaho’s men won the conference title this year with 219.5 points - an increase of 134.17 points. That’s the highest single-season point increase of any team, men’s or women’s, from NCAA Division I, II and III and NAIA, this year.
An Indoor/Outdoor Sweep
After its dramatic final-event win to clinch the team title at the WAC Indoor Championships, the Vandals followed it up by leading from start to finish at the WAC Outdoor Championships to win its first outdoor conference title since joining the conference. The performance marked the first time since 1997 and just the second time in school history that the Vandals won both the indoor and outdoor conference titles in a single season.
Medals Only, Please
Senior Andrew Blaser wrapped up one of the most impressive seasons in Idaho and WAC history this season when he scored a school-record 44 points to lead the Idaho men to the WAC outdoor team title. Between the WAC Indoor and Outdoor Championship meets, Blaser scored a combined 84 points, won five WAC titles and medalled in all 11 of his individual events for First-Team All-WAC honors in each. He won the indoor heptathlon, high jump and 60m hurdles and outdoor 110m hurdles and decathlon and finished third each in the indoor long jump and pole vault and in the outdoor 400m hurdles, high jump, long jump and pole vault. His 44 points at the WAC Outdoor Championships were the most by any NCAA men’s athlete at a conference championship this season.
Can You Dig It?
Senior Erica Digby came up huge for the Vandal women in her final conference meet for Idaho. With titles in the 1500m (4:29.92) and 5000m (17:14.44) and a fifth-place finish in the 800m (2:13.21), Digby scored 24 points to lead the Vandal women to a second-place team finish at the meet. In addition to the team impact, Digby also goes down as the first Vandal woman to sweep the 1500m and 5000m at a single championship meet and her time in the 5000m ranks ninth all-time at Idaho to go along with her third all-time standing in the 1500m.
Swing The Hammer
Senior Gabby Midles is Idaho’s school record holder in the women’s hammer throw. Since she arrived on campus as a true freshman in 2008, Midles has re-written the Idaho record book in the event. She is a three-time NCAA qualifier in the event, including a final round appearance in 2010, where she finished 13th overall. She is the first NCAA qualifier in the event in Idaho women’s history and is a three-time First-Team All-WAC performer in the event.
Click the PDF link above to view complete weekly notes.
Vandal Competition Schedule (All Times PT):
Thursday, May 24
9:00 a.m. - Men's Javelin (Mike Marshall, Ugis Svazs)
2:30 p.m. - Women's Javelin (Ellen Rouse)
3:30 p.m. - Men's Shot Put (Andrey Levkiv)
4:00 p.m. - Women's 1500m First Round (Erica Digby)
5:20 p.m. - Men's 400m First Round (Ben Ayesu-Attah)
Friday, May 25
9:00 a.m. - Women's Discus (Kristine Leonard)
Noon - Men's Hammer (Kyle Rothwell)
3:00 p.m. - Men's 110m Hurdles First Round (Andrew Blaser)
7:30 p.m. - Women's 3000m Steeplechase Quarterfinal (Alycia Butterworth)
Saturday, May 26
Noon - Women's Hammer (Gabby Midles, Sarah Nutsch)
5:05 p.m. - Men's 110m Hurdles Quarterfinal (Andrew Blaser)
6:05 p.m. - Men's 5000m Semifinal (Stephane Colle)