Courtesy: SUU Media Relations
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – March 9 – The Thunderbirds kicked off the outdoor season with school record-breaking performances at the UNLV Track Classic on Friday and Saturday. Sibling duo Kayla and Jayson Kovar set the stage for the T-Birds in the throws, taking individual titles and breaking into the SUU records in all of their respective events.
“This was a great season opener for us,” head coach Eric Houle said. “We really wanted to get out there, work on speed and transition into these outdoor events, and to see school records broken is an added bonus.”
Kovar set a new all-time record for Southern Utah with a first-place mark of 53-6.5 in the shot put, improving her 2012 record of 51-7.25. The senior also set a new Thunderbird record in the hammer throw with a first-place mark of 209-0. Jennika Wright followed Kovar in the shot put with a second-place mark of 45-8.
Jayson Kovar posted a first-place finish in the shot put, recording a third-best SUU record of 55-5.5. He improved his fourth-place record in the discus throw with a 171-8 toss, and also ranks 10th in the record books in the hammer throw after a 158-2 finish.
Chris Johnson (49-1) and Russell Nielson (44-7.5) followed with second- and third-place respective finishes in the shot put. Nielson also posted a third-place finish in the discus throw with a mark of 140-8, followed by Johnson in fourth place with a 139-10. Jordan Parker finished second for the T-Birds in the hammer throw, recording a third-place mark of 144-7.
Nielson led the throwers in their first javelin throw competition of 2014, finishing first overall with a mark of 178-5. The Thunderbirds swept the top javelin position on both sides at UNLV, with Whitney Fairbanks leading the women with a first-place mark of 131-1. Sarah Swalberg placed second for the women with a mark of 116-7.
Sophomore Eric Sandall returned from a redshirt cross country and indoor season to lead the men’s distance squad with a first-place finish in the 1,500-meter run and a time of 3:53.71. He was followed by Hayden Hawks (3:55.54), Jon Lee (3:59.12) and Ibrahim Ahmed (4:03.25) in third, fourth and sixth place. Mike Tate led the men in the 800-meters with a second-place time of 1:53.84, followed by Ryan Barrus (1:59.31) in fourth place.
Shelli Mogensen and Ashley Hawks led the T-Birds in the women’s distance events, placing first in the 1,500-meter run and 800-meter run respectively. Mogensen (4:44.44) was followed by Paige Cardiff with a seventh-place time of 4:54.56. Hawks led the 800-meters field with a time of 2:15.04.
The opening of the outdoor season also marked the beginning of steeplechase competition, and four Thunderbirds raced in the event at UNLV. Anthony Brown and James Leblow represented the men with first- and second-place times of 9:50.22 and 10:21.44, while Sierra Malm (11:54.13) and Brandy Petersen (12:28.71) finished second and third on the women’s side.
Michael Cruz and Lindsay Terry led the T-Birds in the sprints at UNLV. Cruz posted a second-place finish in the men’s 400-meter dash with a time of 53.23, while Terry placed fourth in the women’s 100-meter dash with a time of 12.52.
The Southern Utah relay teams posted several top-three finishes at the Rebel-hosted meet. The men raced to a first-place time of 42.18 in the 4x100-meter relay, while the 4x400-meter relay team posted a third-place time of 3:29.68. The women also finished third in the 4x00-meter relay with a time of 3:55.16.
The Thunderbirds will continue the outdoor season after a two-week break from competition. The teams are set to split between the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin, Texas, and the UC Riverside Spring Track Classic in Riverside, Calif. The Texas Relays will take place March 26-29, while the UC Riverside meet will take place on March 29.
Top-ranking T-Birds Kayla Kovar and Shaye Maurer-Springall are also set to conclude the indoor season at the NCAA National Championship on March 13-15 in Albuquerque, N.M. Kovar will compete in the shot put while Maurer-Springall races in the 60-meter hurdles.