Track & Field Adds to Big Sky Qualifiers at UNM and NAU
"Everybody is looking really good right now," head coach Eric Houle said. "They are all responding well to the level of competition and I think we are ahead of where we were last year. Working toward these conference qualifying marks may also be an added incentive we can factor into the performances."
The women's distance squad led the Thunderbirds at the New Mexico meet as Kirsten Bradford, Jamie Smith and Sylvia Bedford each raced to Big Sky qualifying finishes in the 3,000-meter run. Bradford finished first for SUU with a second-place time of 9:49.06, followed by Smith and Bedford in fourth and seventh place with respective times of 9:49.41 and 9:56.15. All three times also rank in Southern Utah's top-ten record books. Smith and Bradford also recorded Big Sky qualifying times in the women's mile, with Smith placing fourth with a time of 4:53.94 and Bradford following with a fifth-place time of 4:55.64.
Clinton Rhoton led the men's distance squad at New Mexico, finishing fourth in the 3,000-meters with a 8:26.06 time. Elijah Rono (8:29.76) and Ryan Barrus (8:32.11) followed in fifth and seventh places respectively. Barrus led the T-Birds in the mile with an eighth-place time of 4:14.48, ranking fourth in the Big Sky performance list.
Southern Utah was also represented in the throwing events at the Cherry & Silver Invite, with Chris Johnson recording a conference qualifying mark of 52-4.75 with a fifth-place finish in the shot put. Johnson's mark currently ranks fourth in the Big Sky. Freshman Jayson Kovar followed with a seventh-place mark of 51-3.75 in the shot put.
Kayla Kovar placed second in the women's shot put with a 50-3.25 toss and third in the weight throw with a 57-9.75 toss. She currently ranks first in the shot put and second in in the weight throw in the conference, having already qualified for the championship with her throws at NAU last weekend. Teammate Jennika Wright also earned a place at the championship with her ninth-place mark of 44-8.25 in the shot put, ranking fourth in SUU's all-time records and fifth in the conference performance list.
Sprinter Shaun Murray led the Thunderbirds at the Northern Arizona meet, finishing first in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.82. His time also ranks first in the Big Sky and qualifies for a slot at the championship. Teammate Preston Myers also recorded a qualifying time with a second-place time of 6.88 in the 60-meter dash, ranking third in the school record books. Murray and Myers also raced as members of the 4x400-meter relay team, along with Arnold Carrillo and Dallin Tavoian. The team finished second at NAU with a time of 3:18.11, ranking second in the conference.
Big Sky qualifier Kodai Kusano also returned to compete at NAU for the second consecutive weekend and matched his conference qualifying time of 8.35 with a third-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles.
Whitney Curtis and Dayna VanArsdol led the distance runners with first and second-place times of 5:16.78 and 5:20.16 in the mile, while Lizzy Butler represented the women in the 800-meters with a third-place time of 2:18.69, ranking sixth in the Big Sky. Josh Gardner led on the men's side with a second-place time of 4:27.50 in the mile and fourth-place time of 2:01.92 in the 800-meters.
Southern Utah's jumpers also recorded some top-three finishes at NAU as Jayson Cole and Taylir Garrison each finished third in their respective high jumps with marks of 6-4.25 and 5-2.25.
The T-Birds will be back on the road next weekend as the teams unite for the UW Invitational in Seattle, Wash., set for Jan. 25-26.