Record-Setting Weekend of Track Has Cougars Primed for Mountain West Championship
PROVO, Utah (May 6) - Becky Jackson and Marty Hernandez set new school records, and Holly Gibbons and Kyle Grossarth moved into second place on the BYU all-time list in the 400-meter hurdles at the BYU Tri-Meet and Stanford Invitational this weekend.
The BYU women took the team title at the Tri-Meet in Provo, scoring 168 points to defeat Washington (127) and Utah State (87). Washington won the men's competition with 155 team points, as BYU took second (142.5) and Utah State third (85.5).
Jackson had the women's team off to a strong start in the pole vault, clearing a personal-best and school record 12'-9.5" to win the competition. She broke her own BYU best of 12'-6.75", set in 1998. Jackson set the mark despite missing several days of practice following an injury to her left knee in practice Tuesday. "The pole recoiled and bruised my knee up pretty good," said Jackson. "I definitely think the time off helped. There were a lot of friends and family there today, and I had confidence I didn't have last week."
Gibbons held off Washington's Kelsey Sheppard in a photo finish to claim the 400-meter hurdles win in 58.23, good enough to move Holly into second place in the BYU record book. Gibbons took more than half a second off her NCAA provisional time and personal best from two weeks ago, and the Also shining for the women at the Tri-Meet was sophomore Danna Rast-Barker, who claimed a pair of sprint wins. Rast-Barker took the 100 meters in 11.97 and the 200-meter competition in a season-best 23.94. She also ran legs for the winning 4x100 (45.53) and second-place 4x400 (3:50.25) relay teams. Kirsten Bolm added a couple of event wins in the long jump (19'-11") and the 100-meter hurdles (13.40).
Other event winners for BYU included Sharolyn Shields in the 1,500 meters (4:28.81), Tara Rohatinsky in the 3,000 meters (9:45.78), Melanie Steere in the 800 meters (2:09.23), Jeana Bingham (6'-0", NCAA provisional), Amy Curtis in the javelin (148'-4.25")
"We worked really hard this week," said women's coach Craig Poole. "Although we performed well, we ran tired today. We're moving in the right direction, though, and should be more than ready for the Mountain West meet."
In Palo Alto, Calif., Marty Hernandez became only the second woman in BYU history to run the 5,000 meters in less than sixteen minutes, placing first among collegians and fifth overall in an Olympic-caliber field at the Stanford Invitational. Hernandez' time of 15:59.86 was a new BYU outdoor record and just a few seconds short of the overall school record, 15:56.83, set by Elizabeth Jackson at the indoor nationals in February. Former BYU All-American Maggie Chan took second in the race in 15:49.67, as she prepares to represent Hong Kong in the Olympics. Katie Martin set a personal-best in the 3,000 meters (9:50.56) to place 14th in the event.
The men's side of competition saw Kyle Grossarth become only the second man in BYU history to run the 400-meter hurdles in less than 50 seconds, as his time of 49.82 moved him into fifth-place in the national rankings and automatically qualified him for the NCAAs. The only Cougar ahead of Grossarth in the record book is 1970 NCAA champion Ralph Mann, whose time of 48.74 was a world record at the time. Grossarth also took second in the 110-meter hurdles in 14.31 seconds, behind teammate Randy Himes (14.29). He was also the anchor on the winning 4x400 relay team (3:13.07).
The sprints were hotly contested, as Olympic hopefuls Ja'Warren Hooker of Washington and Kenneth Andam of BYU faced off in the 100, 200, and 4x100 events. Andam and teammates Thobias Akwenye, Cody Fonnesbeck and Slade Combs gave BYU an early edge with a win in the 4x100, overcoming a near-disqualification in the 2-3 handoff to post an impressive 39.95 performance, an NCAA provisional mark. The 100-meter competition belonged to Hooker, as he pulled out a win in 10.29 with Andam in second (10.34). The pair finished in the same order in the 200-meters, as Hooker picked up an NCAA automatic 20.23 for the win, and Andam ran a season-best and NCAA provisional 20.77 in defeat. Akwenye set a new personal best in the event, coming in third place in a time of 20.91.
Jim Roberts also picked up an NCAA automatic mark, putting the shot 64'-7" to win the event. The throw added nearly three feet to Roberts' previous season high, and moved him into third place in national rankings. Other event winners included Marc Chenn in the high jump (6'-11.5") and David Chesser in the 400 meters (48.28).
Both teams will have a busy week, as athletes will compete in the Utah Collegiate Championships May 10, and the Cardinal Invitational and Modesto Relays on May 12. The meets will be the Cougars' final opportunity to prepare for the first-ever Mountain West Conference outdoor track and field championship meet, May 17-20 in Provo.