Thunderbirds Claim 17 All-Conference Honors As Competition Concludes In Sacramento
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Competition wrapped up at the 2017 Big Sky Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Saturday, several athletes on both the men's and women's side putting up solid marks.
In total, the men's team racked up 16 all-conference performances over the course of the weekend en route to a second place finish in the final team standings.
Sophomore Kasey Knevelbaard had a massive day for the Thunderbirds, claiming the event title in both the 800-meter and the 1,500-meter. Knevelbaard's 1:49.30 in the 800-meter was not only a personal best, but was also a brand new school record for the event.
“I'm ecstatic about it,” Knevelbaard said following the meet. “I was able to get my first title indoors in the mile, and was able to take third in the 800. So coming into outdoor I knew I had to get after it, and I had great opportunities and great training and I was able to execute.”
Mike Tate had another huge race for the Thunderbirds on Saturday, claiming the event title in the 5,000-meter with a 14:12.58. Matt Wright also earned All-Conference honors in the same race, finishing third with a 14:16.62.
Knevelbaard and Tate earned Co-Most Valuable Athlete honors following the meet, sharing the title with an athlete from both Sacramento State and Weber State.
“That was pretty awesome,” Knevelbaard said about earning the award. “I knew I scored 20 points and Mike scored 20 points, and I was thinking about it in the back of my head but it wasn't a primary goal. It's a huge accomplishment, and to be able to earn it with a teammate too was amazing.”
SUU head coach Eric Houle said he was impressed by what the distance duo showed this weekend.
“Our leaders, Kasey and Mike, really set the tone for the team this weekend,” he said. “I think because of their work ethic and their desire to be the very best, the national champs (Northern Arizona) didn't intimidate them at all, and we saw that on the track this afternoon.”
Jayson Kovar capped another impressive Big Sky Championship performance with a second place finish in the shot put with a new school record of 56' 8.75'', claiming All-Conference status. Kovar claimed the event title in discus on Friday.
Justin Lewis claimed All-Conference status in the 400-meter with a second place finish, finishing in a time of 46.88. Lewis is coming off a redshirt season during the indoor campaign, and said it was nice to be back on a Big Sky podium.
“It felt great just to be back and be healthy, all of that hard work finally paid off,” Lewis said.
Devon Montgomery also claimed an All-Conference medal in the 400-meter hurdles with a second place finish in a time of 52.70.
Javelin thrower Jeff Rowley also earned All-Conference honors with his performance, with a throw of 200' 1''. That was good enough to finish third in the Big Sky.
SUU's 4x400-meter relay team was also able to claim the event championship, running a time of 3:12.43. The group of Lewis, Montgomery, Brandan Harley and Inoa Wahinehookae initially finished in second, but following a disqualification of the team from Northern Arizona the Thunderbirds were bumped up to event champions and earned four more All-Conference medals.
From a team perspective, it was a fight all day between eventual champion Sacramento State, SUU, Weber State and Northern Arizona, with the teams eventually finishing in that order. The Thunderbirds used the 4x400 to propel themselves past Weber State.
“It's about your effort and your desire to achieve the goals you want to achieve,” coach Houle said. “That battle this weekend, that's what competition is all about. It was one of the best performances from this program in history.”
Linnea Saltz had another big day for the Thunderbirds, earning All-Conference status in the 400-meter. She finished the race with a 54.60, which is the second fastest time in the history of the women's program.
“I was super excited that I went 54, and I only wanted to go 54.9 but I went 54.6, and I got second place in the record book which puts me a lot closer to breaking the school record,” Saltz said.
Senior Josie Riggs was able to pick up a point in her final meet as a T-Bird, finishing the 1,500-meter in a time of 4:31.08. That time was a personal best and will put her ninth in school history in that event. She finished eighth at the meet for the Thunderbirds.
Both SUU's 4x100 relay and 4x400 relays had solid days on Saturday, both finishing in fifth place. The 4x100 team (China Simmons, Mia Russell, Peyton Green and Bobbi Parker) finished their event in 47.39 and the 4x400 team (Green, Russell, Carly Dalton and Saltz) wrapped up their event in a 3:46.53.
Two Thunderbirds had solid outings in the women's discus, with freshmen Amy Pouliot and Reagan Hulet throwing 142' 1'' and 138' 4'' respectively.
As a team the Lady T-Birds finished in 12th after scoring 16 points. Northern Arizona was able to claim the championship in Sacramento.
“They keep getting better and better in what is already a very difficult conference,” coach Houle said about the women's side. “I think they can go away feeling pretty good about their performance this weekend.”
Several Thunderbirds will be continuing their season at NCAA Regional competition in Austin, Texas in two weeks. The official field for Regionals will be set at a later date.
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