PROVO, Utah (July 7, 2011) – In their final season in the Mountain West Conference, the BYU women’s track and field team swept the MWC Championships, recorded a historic victory in New York, featured eight All-Americans and had a National Championship performance by junior Lacey Bleazard.
Bleazard’s second career National Championship came at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 800-meters. Bleazard narrowly advanced past the preliminary round in the event before leading the entire four laps of the final race to take the title.
“It was our plan to have her go out fast and take the lead early,” head coach Patrick Shane said. “A couple runners tried to pass her on the final lap but she held them off and had a great finish. I could not be more proud of her. She ran the race perfect.”
The victory made Bleazard the third women’s track athlete in BYU history to win two individual National Championships.
Leading up to the National Championships the Patrick Shane-led team showed promise at the prestigious New York New Balance Invitational. The Cougars won the Invitational for the first time in team history behind outstanding performances by a broad range of athletes.
Junior Sarah Edwards won the 1000m in 2:45.73 to break the BYU and meet record. Edwards win marked the second consecutive season she has taken the victory in the event.
Edwards was also a part of the winning 4x800m team alongside Stacy Slight, Ashlee Thomas and Bleazard. Other top five performances came in the distance medley relay, 800m, high jump and 4x200m relay.
Momentum from the New Balance meet carried over to the MWC Indoor Championships as the Cougars dominated the opposition in scoring 181.5 points. TCU finished second with 107 points, a difference of 74.5 points.
Individual champions led BYU to the team victory. Bleazard won her third straight MWC indoor 800m title, Rachel Fisher (pole vault), Morgan Haws (5000m), Katie Palmer (mile) and Ada Robinson (high jump) also won individual titles. The distance medley relay team of Bleazard, Palmer, Kari Hardt and Nicole Clark also took home a championship.
“We had no letdowns at this meet,” Shane said. “Everyone that competed for BYU this weekend competed hard and did very well. I am so proud of the entire team. This has been a fun year.”
BYU had a conference-leading 15 athletes named to the All-MWC team following the championship meet. Shane, in his first season as the head track and field coach, was named the MWC Indoor Track and Field Coach of the Year.
Following the MWC Championships several Cougars headed to Last Chance meets to qualify for the National Championships. Fisher, a sophomore, had the most impressive performance at the Washington Final Qualifier when she broke the BYU pole vault record by clearing 4.26m (12-11.75).
Just before the team headed to Nationals the USTFCCCA announced the Mountain Region awards. Shane earned Coach of the Year honors, while Palmer was named Track Athlete of the Year and Robinson was named Field Athlete of the Year.
Palmer and Robinson both competed at the National Championships and Robinson came away with All-American honors in the high jump. Bleazard supplied the highlight of the 2011 season on the final day of the National meet with her wire-to-wire 800m win.
BYU got off to a tough start to the outdoor season and dealt with cold, rainy weather for the majority of the year. A few athletes traveled to the Penn Relays midseason and were lucky to compete in warm weather. Bleazard, Palmer, Clark and Edwards broke the BYU record for the 4x800m (8:31.59) at the meet.
The Cougars completed their third consecutive sweep of the MWC titles with a win at the MWC Outdoor Championships. Shane again earned Coach of the Year honors and 17 BYU athletes were named to the All-MWC team.
Bleazard won her third straight title in the outdoor 800m to remain undefeated in MWC competition. Robinson also repeated as high jump champion and Palmer won the 1500m. Senior Cecily Lemmon-Lew came away with a win in the 10000m and Allyson Wardell won the javelin after starting the event ranked fifth.
Shane led 24 athletes to the NCAA West Region Meet. Six athletes, including Bleazard, Diana Blauer, Porshe Giddings, Haws, Palmer and Robinson, qualified for Nationals.
The six qualifying athletes struggled at the National meet and none advanced to the finals of their respective events. Bleazard, Haws, Palmer and Robinson all earned Second Team All-American honors for placing in the top 16, while Blauer and Giddings earned Honorable Mention honors.
“We had a lot of young competitors here that will be back next season,” Shane said. “Even though we didn’t score any points this was a great experience for these athletes.”
Giddings and Palmer will both graduate and not compete in 2012, but the remaining four All-Americans will be back for the team’s first season outside the MWC since 1999.