By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
In outdoor track and field, wind is either a blessing or a curse.
Saturday, it was both.
Winds at the Oliver Jackson Open at Elmer Gray Stadium were too gusty to legally qualify many Wildcat sprinters for nationals, but just right for the throwing events and vaults.
The 15-30 mile-per-hour winds certainly didn’t hurt Wildcat wo-men’s pole vaulter Val Gorter, however, who cleared a new Division II best height of 13-3. Her record-setting performance came just one week after teammate Katie Eckley set the women’s vault record at the McMurry Indian Relays by clearing 13-2 1/2 in the event.
Eckley and Gorter were the only remaining competitors in the event when teammate Angie Aguilar failed to clear 12-0, eventually placing third with a vault of 11-9. Eckley had somewhat of an off day, clearing only her first two heights.
But Gorter’s day was definitely “on,” as she consistently cleared height after height, eventually choosing to attempt 13-3, one-half inch higher than Eckley’s record. Gorter slithered over the bar with apparent ease, drawing an ovation from Gray Stadium spectators, pole vault coach Don Hood and the ex-record holder Eckley.
Head coach Jon Murray said the friendly rivalry between Eckley and Gorter is great for the event and ACU track and field.
“We just need to keep them going all the way to May,” Murray said. “I anticipate them being very competitive with each other. It’s exciting to see them improve week by week.”
Senior Manuel Brand-enborn won the men’s discus with a personal best throw of 183-05, an automatic qualifying mark and the top time in Division II so far this year.
“I just hope this was the start to taking a new step to the next level,” he said.
In the men’s 400-meter dash, junior transfer Marvin Essor qualified provisionally with a fourth-place time of 47.9.
The women’s 4×100-meter relay team won its event with a provisional time of 47.01, while the men’s squad was disqualified for dropping the baton.
Reigning indoor shot put champion Liga Klavina easily won the event Saturday with a provisional throw of 47-10 1/2. Senior Stephanie Warren won both the high jump and triple jump with marks of 5-7 3/4 and 42-5 1/4w, respectively. The high jump mark qualified Warren provisionally, but the triple jump mark can’t be counted as a qualifying mark because of illegal winds.
Several other athletes posted qualifying times or marks, but the gusty winds were faster than NCAA qualifying regulations allow.
Hildenborg said it was disappointing to have many of Saturday’s sprint times not count.
“You want to qualify as soon as possible so you have that over with, so then you can improve your results and relax more,” said Hildenborg, who won the 200-meter dash in 24.03w.
In the 100-meter dash, Bien-Aime beat out teammate and senior Christie VanWyk, who was second in 10.22w.
Bien-Aime, who came to ACU with a best time of 10.5 in the 100-meter dash, said he doesn’t count Saturday’s finish as one of his best races.
“There was a strong wind behind me which made me run a great time, but the race didn’t count, and in my mind it didn’t count either,” he said. “If I can get good weather without a strong wind and run that fast, and I’ll consider that my best race.”
Other Wildcats that placed well included freshman Vincent Morogah in the 5,000 meters (2nd), the 4×400-meter relay team (2nd), sophomore Cory Aguilar in the men’s pole vault (2nd), and sophomore Yevgen Pashchenko in the long jump (2nd).
Twenty athletes will travel to Austin Thursday to participate in the prestigious Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays. The Texas Relays will go through Saturday.