CEDAR CITY, Utah - Feb. 27 - The Southern Utah Track and Field program is set to kick off the 2013 outdoor season this weekend as the Thunderbirds travel to Las Vegas, Nev., for the UNLV Invitational.
"We go to this meet because it's close and because we can give people who didn't go to conference a shot to compete," head coach Eric Houle said. "It's also nice to get into the warmer weather. It seems to inspire and motivate people who have been constantly running in the cold."
The teams will open the outdoor season only one week after concluding the indoor campaign with the Big Sky Championship. SUU finished fifth on the men's side and seventh on the women's, with thrower Kayla Kovar earning the title of Most Outstanding Performer with her shot put mark of 53-6.25. Kovar's mark earned an individual title in the event and set a new all-time indoor record for Southern Utah. Kovar also holds the outdoor record in the shot put (51-7.25) and discus (165-7), as well as a second-best mark in the hammer (191-0), all set in 2012.
Top SUU throwers Chris Johnson, Jayson Kovar, Sadi Hoyt and Rylee Mulitalo will also compete at UNLV, while javelin throwers Whitney Fairbanks and Sarah Swalberg return to compete in the outdoor season.
Leading distance runners Jamie Smith, Kirsten Bradford and Ryan Barrus will spend the weekend resting while many of their teammates travel to UNLV. Aubrey Bryson, Lizzy Butler, Jon Lee and Elijah Rono will be among the athletes competing at UNLV after conference championship performances, and are set to compete in races like the 400-meters and 4x400-meter relay, which they do not normally race. Houle explains that this practice builds speed and helps them continue to improve.
"We're going to rest some of the athletes who competed at conference," Houle said. "They need a break and we need to refocus our training scheme, just like we do every year."
Following the UNLV Invitational, the team will take a two-week break from competition before traveling to San Diego, Calif., to compete in the Aztec Invitational on Mar. 14-16.