After sweeping the Mountain West Conference titles in their final year in the conference, the BYU women’s track and field team is prepared for its first season outside the MWC since 1999. The Cougars will start the year by competing in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation during indoor season and will then compete as an independent during outdoor season.
In the MPSF BYU will face off against primarily Pac-12 conference teams, including powerhouses like Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA. With the addition of BYU, the MPSF now sponsors 12 teams in women’s indoor track and field. The 2011 MPSF team champion was Oregon while Arizona took second place.
Outdoor season will largely look the same for the women with the lone exception coming at the end of the season. Rather than competing in a conference championship meet, the Cougars will attend an end of the year, national championship preparatory meet to face off with some of the nation’s top teams.
Head Coach Patrick Shane is entering his second full year as the head coach of the women’s track and field team. After leading the team to a 15th place finish at indoor Nationals in 2011, Shane will look to his returning upperclassman to improve the team at the national level.
The strength of the 2012 women’s track and field team is distance running. Two-time National Champion Lacey Bleazard, a senior, is the team’s top returning athlete. Bleazard won the 800-meter NCAA indoor title in 2009 as a freshman and 2011 as a junior. She entered both races as an underdog but ran them vastly different, as she came from behind on the home stretch in 2009 but led the majority of the race in 2011. Heading into 2012, Bleazard will look to become the first three-time individual National Champion in BYU history. She will also look to maintain her running strength through the outdoor season, which she has struggled doing over the past few years. After finishing fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 800m in 2009, Bleazard has not managed to make the finals at the outdoor championships in 2010 or 2011.
Joining Bleazard on a powerful distance squad will be seniors Morgan Haws, Katy Andrews and Sarah Edwards. Haws was a Second Team All-American last year for her performance in the NCAA Outdoor Championships and has been a top performer in the 2011 cross country season, her first at BYU. Andrews earned All-MWC honors last season for her performance in the indoor 5000m (third) and the outdoor 3000m steeplechase, in which she took second. Despite only earning All-MWC honors for a relay in 2011 (outdoor 4x400m), Edwards has proven to have an impact on the conference and national landscape each year. She currently holds the BYU and New York New Balance Invitational record for the 1000m with a time of 2:45.73. She also placed fourth in the 800m at the MWC Outdoor Championships and eighth in the same race at the indoor conference meet.
Junior Nachelle Mackie should also have an impact for the BYU distance squad. A mid-distance runner that focuses primarily on the 800m, Mackie is a two-time MWC champion and was an All-American in 2009 as a part of the distance medley relay team. Mackie redshirted the 2011 season after a breakout sophomore year in 2010. As a sophomore, Mackie competed in the 800m at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships and was the NCAA West Preliminary 800m champion. After a year off, Mackie will look to reclaim and improve on her 2010 form.
Other returning distance runners for BYU include Candace Eddy, Madelyn Lowder, Nicole Nielsen, Millie Rapp and Loren Wynn, among several others. Kodi Kleven, a UVU transfer, headlines the new group of distance runners. Kleven competed at UVU in the 2010-11 season and was the Great West Conference champion in the 5000m and 10000m. She was also named the Great West Freshman of the Year. Several new freshman will also join the squad, including Meghan Hedquist, Jessica Markham, Jennica Redd and Amy Thornton.
Sprints and Hurdles
With the graduation of top sprinter Porshe Giddings in April, the BYU women’s sprint and hurdles team will look to a new group of leaders to continue the improvement of the squad under second year assistant coach Corey Murdock. Senior Fatima Makakala will take over from Giddings as the senior leader of the group and will look to improve on her career-best season in 2011. Makakala is a three-time All-MWC performer and was part of the MWC champion 4x100m team in 2010. Last season, Makakala took third in the 100m hurdles at the MWC Championships and ran the seventh fastest 100m hurdle time in BYU history at the Robison Invitational.
Joining Makakala in the hurdles in promising sophomore Allysa Hansen, who improved her time in the 400m hurdles in each succeeding meet in 2011. Hansen finished the season with a fourth place finish in the 400m hurdles at the MWC Championships and helped the 4x100m team take second at the same meet. Also hurdling for the Cougars will be junior Taylor Stapley and sophomore Jenessa Carlson, along with freshmen Erin Murphy, Rachel McQuivey and Lauren Richardson.
The BYU women’s sprint crew will rely heavily on the hurdlers mentioned previously, primarily Makakala and Hansen. Natalie Stewart will lead the team in the 400m race, an event she earned All-MWC honors for during the 2011 season. Sophomores Aubrey Hale and Arlene Gowar are the top two returning athletes that focus soley on sprinting. Hale finished her 2011 freshman season very strong by nearly cracking the BYU top ten list in the 100m with a time of 11.76 at the BYU Twilight Meet. She ended her first season at the MWC Outdoor Championships with a sixth place finish in the 100m and a second place finish with the 4x100m team. Gowar’s best meets of 2011 came during indoor season when she competed in the 60m and 200m. Gowar competed in both sprint events at the MWC Indoor Championships but did not make the finals. She ended her season with a third place finish in the 100m at the Robison Invitational.
One of the biggest strengths of the 2012 women’s track team is the high jump group. Senior Ada Robinson is one of the most decorated athletes in recent BYU track history. A three-time All-American, Robinson also won four consecutive MWC high jump championships. In 2011, Robinson took fifth at the NCAA Indoor Championships and ninth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships while sweeping the MWC Championships. She also ranks third all-time at BYU in the indoor and outdoor high jump.
Senior Diana Blauer will compete alongside Robinson in the high jump and is coming off the best season of her college career. Blauer earned All-America honors during both indoor and outdoor season in 2011. Blauer was also the last athlete to defeat Robinson in a conference championship meet, back during the 2009 outdoor season. Rising sophomore Sarah Vaughn will also be a force in the high jump after placing at the MWC Indoor Championships in the event and winning the high jump championship at the Mesa Classic during outdoor season.
In the horizontal jumps, junior Melissa Keltner will help lead the team, primarily in the triple jump. Keltner finished sixth in the triple jump at the 2011 MWC Indoor Championships and won the triple jump at the Robison Invitational. Makakala will also compete in the horizontal jumps, along with Keza King, Taylor Reynolds and Taylor Stapley.
Once again the pole vault squad will be one of the strengths of the BYU women’s track and field team. Leading the group in 2012 will be junior Rachel Fisher and seniors Christen Guenther and Kelli Ehardt.
Fisher has been dominant in her two years at BYU but has struggled to compete during both indoor and outdoor season due to injuries. As a freshman, Fisher broke out with a sixth place finish at the New Balance Invitational and followed that by breaking the BYU indoor pole vault record at the MWC Indoor Championships. In 2011, Fisher broke her own indoor pole vault record by clearing 4.26m and won the MWC Indoor Championship in the event. She also competed at the NCAA Indoor Championships for the second consecutive year. She redshirted the outdoor season primarily due to a foot injury.
Guenther had her breakout season as a junior in 2011. Although she struggled during the outdoor season, Guenther competed well during indoor competition with a second place MWC Indoor finish, an appearance at the NCAA Championships and a career best vault of 4.22m, good enough for second place all-time at BYU. Ehardt has a career best vault of 4.16m, which ranks third all-time at BYU, and earned a pair of third place finishes at the MWC Championship meets last season.
Diana Perry, a senior, and Elizabeth Portanova, a sophomore, will also vault for the Cougars in 2012. Perry has a career best mark of 3.50m and Portanova cleared her best mark of 3.80m in the final meet of the 2011 season.
The strength of the throws squad in 2012 is javelin throwers Allyson Anderson and Amber Huntington. Anderson, a junior, came on late in her sophomore season. Competing as an underdog at the MWC Outdoor Championships, Anderson won the event and the championship with a throw of 45.89m. Her career best throw of 47.06m came her freshman season at the NCAA West Preliminary meet, which she has competed in in both her years at BYU.
Huntington, a sophomore, led BYU in the javelin throughout the year before Anderson won the MWC Championships. Huntington finished third in the MWC Championships with a throw of 42.80m and qualified for and competed in the NCAA West Preliminary.
BYU has a long and successful history of multi-event athletes, from Themis Zambrzycki and her 1980 pentathlon National Championship to Amy Menlove and her National title in the pentathlon in 2009. Taking over the role as the lead multi-event athlete in 2012 is sophomore Elizabeth Wilson. Wilson primarily competed in the jumps in 2011 before competing in the heptathlon for the first time in her college career at the MWC Outdoor Championships.
Despite it being her first time in the event, Wilson showed future promise with a fourth place finish after scoring 4597 points. Heading into her second season with the Cougars, Wilson will look to follow in the footsteps of past multi-event athletes to find success throughout the season.