(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – The BYU women’s track and field team took seventh place during its first indoor season in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and competed independent during the outdoor season.
Despite unfamiliar territory, the team finished true to form with several All-Americans, multiple record-setting performances and a two-time national champion.
This year’s dominant figure was Nachelle Mackie, who had one of the greatest single seasons in BYU history. To name a few of her accomplishments, Mackie won the indoor and outdoor national championships in the 800 meters, won the MPSF 800-meter indoor championship, was named the Mountain Region Women’s Track Athlete of the Year, set and broke the BYU indoor 800-meters all-time record, set the second fastest time for the BYU outdoor 800-meters, and received first-team All-America honors in the indoor 800 meters, the distance medley relay and the outdoor 800 meters.
“To put it simply, Nachelle is just a special athlete,” head coach Patrick Shane said. “She came into this season knowing it would be her last and didn’t want to leave anything unfinished. Looking back, it’s pretty easy to see she accomplished everything she set out to accomplish. She will definitely be missed.”
Mackie’s championship wins rank her as the fourth women’s track and field athlete in BYU history to win two individual national championships and the second to win the indoor and outdoor championship in the same event in the same year.
In 2011 the Cougars finished first during the indoor and outdoor seasons in the Mountain West Conference. Heading into 2012, BYU began competing as the newest member of the MPSF, where it faced off against teams such as Stanford, Arizona and Oregon. Despite the team’s seventh-place finish, coach Shane is confident things will improve in years to come.
“All season long and going into the MPSF Championships,” Shane said, “we have been a little shorthanded because of the number of great athletes that redshirted during the indoor season, but we performed well. We broke personal and BYU records and had great individual performances.”
The indoor season began as expected for the team by finishing first at the annual BYU Invitational. The team won nine events and took the top-three spots in six events.
“It was the first meet, and it definitely showed,” Shane said. “However, we had some athletes whose marks were very impressive. There are always highs and lows and everything in between. The BYU Invitational was no different.”
The Boise State Blue and Orange Opener marked another first-place win for the team. The team won six events and put two Cougars on the 2012 national records board. Mackie won the 800 meters in 2:07.52, the fastest time in the NCAA so far in 2012 by almost three seconds. Mackie would eventually go on to break this record several more times throughout the indoor season.
In the pole vault, Christen Guenther cleared 4.15 meters, a season best height. At the time the height ranked third in the nation and is currently tied for the third-best jump on the BYU all-time board.
During the New Mexico Cherry and Silver Invitational, senior Diane Stewart won the 400-meter hurdles in 1:01.83 and set a record no collegian or professional runner had set before.
“This was the first time in history that the indoor 400-meter hurdles has ever officially been run in the United States,” assistant coach Corey Murdock said. “It was a great opportunity for our athletes to run in such a historic race.”
Stewart held the record for two weeks.
During the Washington Invitational, Mackie finished first in the 800 meters with a time of 2:04.97, beating her previous time by almost three seconds.
All-American Lacey Bleazard also competed in the 800 meters, her premier event, for the first time during the season. Bleazard finished second in 2:05.88, which trailed only Mackie’s time in the NCAA in 2012.
In the mile, Katie Palmer crossed the line in 4:39.83 and trailed only professional runners. Palmer’s time ranks second in BYU history and set the record for the third fastest time in the NCAA at that point in the season.
At the New York New Balance Invitational, the team finished high in the standings for the third year in a row, placing second above national powerhouses LSU, Texas A&M and Baylor.
Mackie won the 800 meters in 2:03.56 breaking her own record for the second time this season, the current NCAA record in 2012, and the school record, set by Bleazard in the national championship in 2009. Mackie’s time also broke the New Balance Invitational record.
Guenther continued to improve on her record-breaking season as well, breaking the BYU all-time record in the pole vault set last year by Rachel Fisher of 4.30 meters. Guenther finished second during the event.
Mackie, Palmer, Bleazard and Sarah Edwards combined their talents in the 4x800 meters to break a 25-year old school record. The four combined to finish in 8:37.97, 18 seconds faster than the second-place team.
During the MPSF Championships, Mackie and Palmer stood out yet again with thrilling performances. Mackie crossed the line in 2:04.22 to take the MPSF Championship in the 800 meters. Palmer nearly broke the BYU indoor mile record for the second time in 2012, with a time of 4:39.76 to finish second.
To conclude the 2012 indoor season, several Cougars represented BYU at the NCAA Indoor Championships where the team finished 11th with 19 points. Mackie finished first in the 800 meters to claim the championship title and first-team All-America honors. She finished in 2:03.30, breaking the BYU all-time record she set earlier in the season by .26 seconds.
“I took the lead early and although it wasn't necessarily the position I wanted to be in initially, I realized no one else was going to take it, so I needed to," Mackie said. "Once I was in the lead, I told myself I wasn't going to let anyone take it from me. It was so exciting to be able to fulfill one of my dreams."
Palmer also competed in the 800m final, finishing third just over one second behind Mackie in 2:04.56. During the preliminary heat, Palmer finished narrowly ahead of Mackie by .74 seconds. Palmer finished with the top time in the preliminaries consisting of 16 runners in 2:04.16. She earned first-team All-America honors in the 800m due to her performance.
Mackie and Palmer also earned first-team All-America honors in the distance medley relay along side teammates Bleazard and Edwards, with a sixth-place finish in 11:09.81.
Guenther earned second-team All-America honors with her 10th-place finish in the pole vault, clearing 4.20 meters.
At the start of the 2012 outdoor season, the women faced an identical situation to 2011 with a cold, rainy meet at the San Diego State Invitational.
“It rained so much the drainage system on the track overflowed and caused some flooding in the competition area,” Shane said. “We didn’t get to compete as much as we wanted, but we still had some great performance.”
Competing as an independent, the outdoor season looked largely the same with the lone exception coming at the end of the season. Rather than competing in a conference championship meet, the Cougars attended an end of the year, national championship preparatory meet to face off with some of the nation’s top teams.
Field athlete Allyson Anderson led the Cougars by placing first in the javelin during the first few meets. During the USC Trojan Invitational, she set a record that sits third on BYU all-time record board with a throw of 51.19 meters. Her throw also stood as the third-best throw in the NCAA in 2012 for a time.
Freshman standout Lexi Eaton powered the team during the middle of the season with her performances in the high jump. Eaton finished in the top three for the majority of her meets, earned a spot on the BYU all-time record board, and recorded a top-10 jump in the NCAA in 2012.
“Lexi continued to improve every week," Shane said. "She finished second overall at the UCLA Invitational but was narrowly beaten by a professional.”
Eaton finished first during the UVU Invitational, first during the BYU Tri-Meet, second during the UCLA Invitational, first during the Robison Invitational, second during the Weber State Twilight and third during the Georgia Tech Invitational.
Going into the later half of the outdoor season, Mackie ran another record-breaking 800-meter race during the annual Mt. SAC Relays. She finished second and set the record for the fastest 800-meter time of the season in the NCAA in 2:01.11.
“Nachelle’s performance in the 800 meters was the highlight of the Mt. SAC meet,” Shane said. “She ran against professionals, many of which were Olympians, and she still managed to preform at her best.”
After several qualifying rounds, three Cougars advanced to the NCAA national championships in Des Moines, Iowa: Mackie, Bleazard and Anderson. Of the three, Mackie was the lone Cougar to make a significant impact, who won her second national championship of the year by winning the outdoor 800 meters. Mackie broke her personal best four times, broke the BYU all-time record, set the best time in the NCAA in 2012 in 2:01.06 and earned first-team All-America honors.
“It was such a great race,” Mackie said. “At the beginning of the race, I knew I had to go out fast because it was such a strong field. Once I got the lead, I didn’t want to give it up. I had the lead with 200 meters left, and the thought of losing my last collegiate race gave me the extra motivation to finish strong.”
Anderson joined Mackie as a 2012 outdoor All-American with her performance in the javelin. Anderson took 16th with a throw of 44.28 meters. The Billings, Mont., native was named to the All-America Second Team.
Throughout the outdoor regular season, Anderson finished first in the javelin during every competition but one. She placed second during the Georgia Tech Invitational behind teammate Amber Freeman Huntington. Anderson’s season and career best came during her first-place finish at the USC Trojan Invitational with a throw of 51.19 meters.
From an academic standpoint, 21 members of the BYU women’s track and field team were selected as MPSF All-Academic Student-Athletes during the indoor season, including Mackie. In addition to earning MPSF All-Academic honors, she was named to the 2012 Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-District 8 First Team and the Capital One Academic All-America® team.