DURHAM -- Predicted as merely a top-10 finisher, the BYU women's track & field team exceeded all expectations with a fourth-place team finish at the 2000 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. LSU won the team title, followed by USC and UCLA.
"I think we did an awesome job," said women's coach Craig Poole. "The kids who have been here before and who are mature got the job done for us in a big way. We figured heading into the meet that we would finish top-10, so we exceeded our own expectations in that respect. A lot of the big predictors and news groups picked us to finish around 18th, so we kind of made them eat their own words this week."
For the first time in school history, the Cougars had two NCAA champions in a single meet, as Susan Taylor captured the 1,500-meter title on Saturday. Her mark of 4:13.03 was a BYU record, eclipsing a 13-year old standard set by Julie Jenkins in 1987. Taylor started the race on the inside lane, and was quickly engulfed in the pack as competitors rushed to the inside. For the first three laps, Taylor hovered in the middle of the pack, before making her move in the last 400 meters. She passed the leader down the straight-away on the bell lap, and extended her lead through the finish line, defeating defending champ Carmen Douma of Villanova by more than three seconds.
"When I first went out I was pretty boxed in," said Taylor. "I was right where I wanted to be on the inside, but I was a bit further back in the pack than I had planned. It was a little scary for a while there, but luckily I was able to out-kick everyone to the finish."
Taylor's winning time improved on her qualifying mark for the Olympic trials by more than three and a half seconds.
"I just wanted to go out do the best I could for the team. I ended up winning and now I have a shot at the Olympics, so I couldn't ask for anything more," said Taylor.
The 10 team points from the 1,500 meters put the Cougars in second place with 46 points behind UCLA's 47 after 17 events. It also gave BYU its highest point total in NCAA competition, including all previous indoor and outdoor championships.
Earlier in the day, senior Kirsten Bolm finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles, setting a new lifetime best with a time of 12.93. After a trademark slow start, Bolm battled through the middle hurdles to push the leaders and contend for the lead. Joyce Bates of LSU was the eventual winner in a time of 12.85. Only two hundredths of a second separated the second- and the fourth-place finishers.
Sharolyn Shields was the last competitor on schedule for the Cougars, but was unable to score additional team points in the 3,000 meters. Shields placed 11th in 9:33.42.
In men's action, freshman Curtis Pugsley finished the day with strong performances in two of the final five events of the decathlon to finish sixth overall. Pugsley picked up 858 points with a personal best 14.93 in the 100-meter high hurdles. The Park Valley, Utah native added 880 more points to his total with a mark of 16'-00.75" in the pole vault. Pugsley, who just returned from an LDS mission in December, recorded a distance of 129'-10" in the discus (636 pts.), 153'-06" in the javelin (541 pts.) and ran the 1,500 meters in 4:45.91 to pick up 644 points in the final event of the 10-event competition. Pugsley becomes the first BYU All-American in the decathlon since Keith Robinson became an All-American in both 1986 and 1987.
Senior Marc Chenn failed to advance in the high jump, missing all three attempts at the opening height (6'-11").
In his final duty as head coach of the BYU men's track & field team, Willard Hirschi, who has been affiliated with BYU since 1952, will guide the Cougars to the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Durham, N.C. next week. Eight Cougars have qualified for the 2000 NCAA Championship meet on May 31-June 3, hosted by Duke University. BYU will be making its 39 straight showing at the event, dating back to the 1962 season. This year's meet will mark the second time since 1990 the Blue Devils have hosted the NCAA Championships.
Hirschi, who will end his 48-year union with BYU following the meet, has been the head coach at BYU since 1988. During his tenure, Hirschi, has won a combined 22 indoor and outdoor league championships, including both the 2000 Mountain West Conference Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
Sprinter Kenneth Andam qualified in the 100-meters with season-best time of 10.13 on May 10 at the Utah Collegiate Championships. For seeding purposes, Andam's time has been adjusted for altitude to 10.19. Andam, a native of Takoradi, Ghana, will enter the race as the 13th-ranked competitor. Andam is coming off a pair of winning performances in the 100- (10.27) and 200-meter (20.68) competitions at the first-ever Mountain West Conference Championships.
Currently ranked sixth in the nation, senior Marc Chenn has also qualified by posting a winning mark of 7'-04.5" (2.25 meters) at the Mountain West Conference Championships. Chenn, a seventh-place finisher at the 1999 NCAA Championships in Boise, Ida., has won back-to-back Conference outdoor high jump titles and posted BYU's second-highest mark ever with his winning performance at the MWC Outdoor Championships.
Recently named the MWC Top Performer, junior Jim Roberts qualified in the shotput with a career-best and event-winning mark of 65'-03.25" (19.89 meters) at the league outdoor championship meet. Roberts' finished sixth at the 1999 NCAA Championships in the shotput and currently ranks second in the nation. Roberts' performance last weekend marked the second longest put in BYU history.
Intermediate hurdler Kyle Grossarth will also compete at the NCAA Championships, having qualified with a time of 49.92 on May 6th. Grossarth's time has been adjusted to 50.02 due to altitude, ranking his as the 11th fastest hurdler in the nation. Grossarth's time at the BYU Tri-Meet (49.82) ranks as the second fastest in BYU history. Only Ralph Mann's 1970 time of 48.74, then a world record, is the only other fastest time in Cougar history. This year's trip to Durham will mark the second straight NCAA Championship appearance for the Avondale, Ariz., native.
Fresh off a two-year LDS Church mission to Aurstralia, freshman Curtis Pugsley took the Mountain West Conference by storm, winning the 2000 MWC Decathlon title with an impressive 7,525-point performance. The Conference Freshman of the Year, who set nine PRs during his performance, is the highest-ranking freshman entering the NCAA Championships and fifth-ranked overall.
Thobias Akwenye, a native of Windhoek, Nambia, Slade Combs, a Sandy, Utah product and Cody Fonnesbeck, a freshman from St. George, Utah, will join Andam as members of the BYU 4x100-meter relay team. The foursome improved their qualifying mark to 39.40 at the MWC Championships, winning the event over favored Colorado State. Ranked 17th in the nation, BYU's time has been adjusted to 39.64, due to altitude.
For more information on the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, including event schedules and list of qulifiers, check out the official championships website of the NCAA at www.ncaachampionships.com.