PROVO -- Heading into this weekend's Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships with many of the top times in the conference, the BYU men's and women's track teams will look to defend their titles from a year ago. In the inaugural season of MWC competition, the Cougar men recorded a 50-point victory with 193 points, while the women dusted the competition, scoring 229 points to the second place team score of 91.50.
This year, the women's team will be lead by its outstanding distance core. While the high altitude in Colorado Springs, Colorado will likely take its toll in the longer races, the BYU team is still looking to qualify several athletes for the NCAA Championships, and the conference meet is the last chance to do so. Cougar runners hold four of the top five times in the 800 meters, with senior All-American Melanie Steere leading the way at 2:10.41. Steere also holds the top spot in the mile, with a seed time of 4:47.40, and the Cougars claim seven of the top eight times in that event. In the 3,000 meters, BYU holds eight of the top 12 times, with senior All-American Elizabeth Jackson in the number one spot with a seed time of 9:30.19. Jackson has the best time in the 5,000 meters as well, at 16:27.72, and the Cougars go 1-2-3 in that event. (seed times reflect adjustments for altitude and track conditions)
"We're going to put our best team out there this weekend," said women's coach Craig Poole. "Everybody is healthy right now and we're ready to go. This will be a good opportunity for several of our athletes to record personal bests."
In addition to its distance squad, the BYU team will have several strong competitors in the field events. Senior All-American Kirsten Bolm set a meet record in the long at last weekend's Air Force Open with a leap of 20'09.00" (6.32m). That mark puts her at the top of the conference list, and she also has the top time in the 60-meter hurdles at 8.34. Senior All-American Jeana Bingham is coming off a strong showing last weekend as well. Bingham cleared six feet in the high jump (6'00.75", 1.85m) for the first time this season to improve her top ranking in the conference and take over the No. 2 spot in the country. Junior Cathy Fuailemaa is ranked second in the conference in the weight throw, with a toss of 58'08.75" (17.90m)
The BYU men's team will rely on the strength of its sprinters and field events. Senior All-American Jim Roberts has been impressive all year in the shot put. His personal best of 66'10.00" (20.37m) leads the conference by an amazing seven and one-half feet. His throw is the top American mark this year, and puts him third on the current NCAA list. All-American Curtis Pugsley holds the top spot on the conference list in the indoor pentathlon with 3852 points, and teammates Chris Kemp (3576) and Dan Parkinson (3517) hold the No. 3 and 4 spots, respectively. Pugsley also holds the top mark in the high jump, at 6'08.75" (2.05m). Sophomore Jeremy Kemp is at the top of the conference rankings in the pole vault with a mark of 16'07.00" (5.05m). BYU also holds a top spot with its 4x400-meter relay time, with a seed time of 3:12.23, and its distance medley team, with a time of 9:50.54, is just five-tenths of a second behind first-place Air Force.
Possibly the strongest event for the BYU men's team is the 60-meter hurdles. Cougar runners hold six of the top 11 times in that event, with junior Russ Elggren ranked No. 2 in the event with a time of 8.11 seconds, and senior All-American Slade Combs right behind him in the No. 3 spot with a time of 8.12. Senior All-American Kenneth Andam has the top seed times in both the 60-meters (6.66) and the 200-meters (21.12), and sophomore Greg Flint is in the No. 1 position in the 400-meters with a time of 47.52.
The Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships will be held over three days, Feb. 22-24, at Cadet Field House in Colorado Springs, Colorado. For complete meet results, go to www.mountainwestconf.com