Menlove Wins National Championship and Cougars Sit in First

COLLEGE STATION -- BYU All-American Amy Menlove won the women’s pentathlon, propelling BYU into first place at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas on Friday.

The No. 19 Cougars currently are in first place with 18 points and hold a five-point lead over Oregon, Texas A&M and Penn State heading into the final day of competition.

“It was an incredible day,” said BYU women’s head coach Craig Poole. “We competed at a top level in every event. Amy [Menlove] and the DMR team did exactly what they needed to do.”

Menlove, one of the most decorated track athletes in BYU history, became the fourth Cougar to win an Indoor National Championship. Her point total in the pentathlon (4,365) on Friday is a school record, a Mountain West Conference record and a 2009 NCAA season-best mark.

“It was really exciting,” Menlove said. “I love this meet and the competition it brings. This has been a goal of mine for a long time and I’m really happy I was able to accomplish it.”

The pentathlon is a combined event consisting of the 60-meter hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and 800-meter run. Menlove finished first in both the 60-meter hurdles (8.26) and long jump (21’-0”) events, helping her upset the nations No. 1 seed Gayle Hunter of Penn State who took second with 4,342 points.

Menlove also earned a personal best time in the 800-meter (2:18.65) and shot put (38’1.50”), which helped lead to her fourth-career NCAA All-America certificate.

“National Champions are so infrequent, which makes this incredibly special,” Poole said. “I’m really happy for Amy. She deserves this.”

Menlove is joined by Themis Zambrzycki (1980) as the only two Cougars to win the Pentathlon National Championship. Menlove’s championship score earned BYU ten points on the first day of competition.

After resting for one hour Menlove was back on the track to compete in the individual long jump championship. The Sandy, Utah native earned her second All-America honor of the day and the fifth of her career with a seventh place finish in the long jump (21’0”).

Menlove’s seventh place finish earned BYU two points, giving the Cougars 12 total points -- a slight lead over second-place Oregon heading into the next events.

Next up for the Cougars were the 800-meter prelims and it seemed as if BYU was just warming up. Freshman standout Lacey Cramer ran a time of 2:03.91, breaking both the BYU and MWC record, which she previously set earlier this season. Cramer’s time is the nation’s second-fastest in 2009 and is nearly two seconds faster than her previous record.

“Lacey was exceptional today,” BYU distance coach Patrick Shane said. “For a freshman to do what she did was phenomenal.”

Cramer’s time easily qualifies her for Saturday’s final. Joining Cramer in the finals will be teammate Katie Palmer. Palmer, who ranks second only to Cramer on the BYU and MWC all-time 800-meter list, also earned a personal best on Friday with a time of 2:04.46.

Palmer’s 800-meter performance was the meet’s fifth fastest time. Both Palmer and Cramer will compete in tomorrow’s finals, which will showcase the nation’s top eight 800-meter athletes.

“Both Lacey and Katie ran great,” Shane said. “If either one of them have the lead heading into the final turn tomorrow, I don’t think they will be caught. I’m excited for tomorrow. I think it will be another great day.”

Like Menlove, Palmer and Cramer had little time to rest. Minutes after qualifying for Saturday’s 800-meter final, the two middle distance specialists were preparing and focusing for the distance medley relay.

The team of Nachelle Stewart, Cramer, Palmer and Angela Wagner combined for a time of 10:56.73, placing them third in the event and shattering the previous school and conference record set by BYU this season.

“It was one of the best races I’ve seen,” Shane said. “Any other year this team would have been National Champions. I’m really proud of them and the way they competed.”

It took a world record and the world’s second-fastest time ever to beat BYU’s stacked team. Tennessee won the event, breaking the world record by over four seconds. North Carolina trailed Tennessee with a time of 10:56.19, edging BYU by .54 seconds.

“It took world records to beat us,” Shane said. “What’s really great is this DMR team consists of two freshman and two sophomores.”

The young team earned personal bests in each of its legs of the race. Palmer started the event running in an impressive time of 3:22 in the 1200-meter leg. Palmer passed the baton off to Stewart who ran a personal best in the 400-meter (52.97). Cramer then set another personal best in the 800-meter (2:03.3). Wagner finished strong with a personal best in the 1 mile (4:38.2).

This marks the first All-America honors for Stewart and Cramer, the second for Palmer and the third for Wagner.

Cramer and Palmer will compete in the 800-meter finals tomorrow at 5:20 MST.

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