Outdoor Season Begins

Niklas Arrhenius returned from redshirting this weekend. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

TUCSON -- BYU track and field athletes showed glimpses of positive things to come in their first meets of the season Friday and Saturday.

The men were plagued with wind in Tucson but managed to produce some high-quality performances as they headed outdoors for the first time.

"We did well but it was a little difficult getting used to being outside," Coach Mark Robison said. "It was definitely a first-meet type of performance and our rhythm was just a little off, but we're off to a good start and I'm looking forward to the season."

BYU throwers debuted in quality fashion in Tucson. Niklas Arrhenius returned from redshirting and threw the discus for 204 feet 7.5 inches, among the top-10 BYU all-time throws and currently one of the farthest throws in the nation. Newcomers Blaine Baker and Chris Reno finished second and third in the javelin throw with personal bests of 212 feet 3.75 inches and 208 feet 9 inches, respectively.

The 200-meter race had a fresh energy boost as football star Todd Watkins joined fellow teammate Nate Soelberg on the track for the first time. Watkins made his presence known as the first Cougar to cross the finish line, finishing fifth out of a field of 38 athletes with a time of 21.58. In the 110-meter hurdles, Jake Garlick and Nate Rencher performed well, finishing with times of 14.54 and 14.84, respectively.

Distance legend Josh Rohatinsky competed in his first race of the year after redshirting the indoor season. The cross country All-American showed little sign of rust as he finished second in the 1,500 meters with a time of 3:48.93.

In the field events it was Bryce Bergen with a second-place high jump finish of 6 feet 8.75 inches. Matt Weirich finished second in the pole vault, vaulting to a height of 16 feet 3 inches.

The wind made its way to northern California for the women's meet as well and brought cold along with it, which made for a not-so-pleasant primary outdoor meet, but the women did submit several far-from-unpleasant performances.

"It was a very good meet for an opener," Coach Patrick Shane said. "It was nice to get that first meet over with and see the things we can work on. We're looking forward to things being a little warmer and feeling a little more secure next week in Arizona."

Four athletes won their respective events at the meet. Leli Fotu found her spot in the hammer throw with a distance of 172 feet 6.75 inches, just missing regional qualification. Freshman Mindy Neeley took the long jump title with a personal-best jump of 19 feet 10.75 inches. Neeley returned later for a second-place finish in the 100 meters with a time of 12.05.

For the distance squad, it was freshman Amy Fowler winning the 1,500 meters in a time of 4:33.00 with teammate Laura Taylor close behind in second. Challis Firl overcame the competition in the final seconds to take first in the 800 meters with a time of 2:13.05.

Kristin Hirst had a second-place finish in the high jump with a height of 5 feet 4 inches. Kelly Nesbit-Furr tied for second in the pole vault with a height of 11 feet 5.75 inches.

Also putting forth notable performances were Tiffany Arrhenius, finishing third in the javelin with a throw of 140 feet 2.5 inches, Nicole Nevitt crossing the line in third in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:04.51 and Kathryn Sevy in third in the high jump with a height of 5 feet 4 inches.

The Cougars will join together next week to compete at Arizona State University. BYU will play host to five outdoor meets, beginning with the Cougar Invitational on March 31. For more information about the BYU track and field program, please visit their web sites at www.byucougars.com or www.byutrack.com.

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