By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
Someone once said, “Competition is the whetstone of talent.”
The competition displayed at the Frank Sevigne Classic in Lincoln, Neb., Friday and Saturday certainly sharpened the performances of the ACU track and field athletes, who posted 15 new provisional or automatic qualifying marks or times for the indoor national meet next month.
The men’s team boasted seven new provisional qualifying marks against the likes of Stanford, Nebraska, Minnesota, Xavier and Kansas, also gaining experience competing on a banked 200-meter track that is like the one at the Division II Indoor National Championships in Boston.
Head coach Don Hood said he has been impressed with the competitive spirit of his teams at the last two meets.
“First of all, the key to running fast is competing. You don’t try to run fast, you try to win. You don’t try to jump far, you try to beat the guy next to you,” Hood said. “With the meets we’re entering, winning these races we’re in will qualify us for nationals. I want to develop a competitive spirit, and I felt really good coming out of Nebraska.”
Junior Marvin Bien-Aime continued his fast start Saturday by posting a new provisional qualifying time of 6.85 in the 60-meter dash and improving his 200-meter dash time to 21.45. Bien-Aime was second overall in the 200-meter dash, the event in which he won the outdoor national title in 2005. Senior Delt Cockrell and freshman Montez Pride posted provisional times in the 400-meter dash, finishing in 48.24 and 48.45, respectively. Two-time track and field champion Nicodemus Naimadu finished second in the mile run with a provisional time of 4:08.68, while fellow distance star Philip Birgen was first in the 5,000-meter run with a provisional time of 14:46.09. The men’s 4×400-meter relay team of Bien-Aime, Pride, Elton Garus-Oab, and Cockrell improved its provisional time by three seconds Saturday, placing third overall with a time of 3:14.96. The distance medley relay team posted a new provisional mark with a winning time of 10:05.
In the field events, senior pole vaulter Cory Aguilar broke his slump of not clearing the opening height by clearing 16 feet, a provisional height, to finish ninth. The men’s field event athletes to watch this season, however, will be the Ukrainian tandem of Yevgen Pashchenko and Vladyslav Gorbenko in the long jump and triple jump. Friday, Gorbenko placed first in the triple jump with a substantial provisional mark of 51-3 3/4. Pashchenko added a provisional mark of his own in the triple jump, placing third with a mark of 50-6. The senior was eighth in the long jump with a provisional mark of 23-4 1/2.
On the women’s side, athletes qualified in five new events, along with one automatic qualifying mark. Junior Angie Aguilar improved her height in the pole vault past the automatic standard, clearing 12 feet, 10 1/4 inches to finish fourth in the competition. Aguilar made three unsuccessful attempts at 13 feet, 4 inches, which would have been a Division II indoor pole vault record. Trina Cox was the only event winner for the women, finishing the 5,000-meter run in a provisional qualifying time of 16:58.55. In the same race, senior Olha Kryv’yak posted a provisional qualifying time of 17:16.36, placing third.
The women’s distance medley relay team – comprised of Kryv’yak, Jessica Hunt, Vanessa Whittle, and Cox – won its race with an automatic qualifying time of 11:49.56
Of all the events, the 400-meter dash and 4×400-meter relay produced the biggest performances for the Wildcat women. Keva Wilkins ran a near-automatic provisional time of 55.77 in the finals of the 400-meter dash to finish second, while freshman Azraa Rounds was fourth in the event with a provisional time of 55.90. The women’s 4×400-meter relay team – comprised of Kim Prather, Rounds, Hunt, and Shawna-Kaye Thompson – improved its provisional qualifying time to 3:46.44 amid heavy D-1 competition, placing fourth.
Hood said he is pleased with where his teams are with two qualifying meets remaining before nationals.
“We haven’t done any speed training yet, and the times will continue to fall,” Hood said. “I’m telling them if they’re not running their best yet, just wait. I think the best is yet to come.”
So far this season, the men’s and women’s teams have combined to qualify 13 athletes and four relay teams either provisionally or automatically for the indoor national meet. ACU will return to action Saturday at the New Mexico Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M.
“We’re hoping to qualify everyone else who has a chance at qualifying, so that we’ll have three weeks of real good training before nationals,” What I was as impressed with as anything were quality Pac-10 or Big 12 teams, and they beat many of them. That tells me that our talent level is right where it needs to be to continue winning.