By Jeff Craig, Sports Writer
With the conference championship and the national championship just around the corner, the track and field team divided forces last weekend with a small contingent of long distance runners and field events specialists heading to California and most of the field competitors and sprinters competing in Waco.
Each event provided an ACU team already loaded with national berths more opportunities to qualify for the NCAA Division II Championship, which will take place just down the road in San Angelo on May 21-23. Head track and field coach Don Hood viewed the weekend as having produced both some good and disappointing results.
“I felt the competitions were really a mixed bag of results. Some results were good, while other results were frustrating,” Hood said.
Saturday, Hood accompanied the team that went to the Michael Johnson Classic in Waco, where the Wildcats competed against perennial Big 12 powerhouses Baylor, Texas Tech and Colorado univeristies. Hood particularly was impressed with the performance of his women’s 4-by-100-meter team, which improved its overall time from earlier this year.
A few mistakes happened, however, such as a dropped baton in the men’s relay, but much of that can be attributed to inclement weather in the Waco area this weekend, Hood said. Conditions were wet on both Friday and Saturday with nearly two inches of rain falling across central Texas. Hood thought the conditions may have been a factor in the competition, but nonetheless the team continued to improve.
“I think that we have continued to progress,” Hood said. “The day started out raining with poor conditions, but the sun did come out for a pretty afternoon.”
The Wildcats also put in several strong individual performances as well. On the women’s side, Wanda Hudson scored a provisional mark in the 200-meter with a time of 24.60 seconds, while Regi McCabe-Gossett put in his best time this season in the 800-meter with 1:58.89. The Wildcats also dominated the pole vault, taking first place in both the men and women’s events. Landon Ehlers won the men’s pole vault with a jump of 16 feet 6.75 inches, while Callie Young clinched the women’s pole vault title after clearing a bar at 12-7.5. Finally, ACU also put in a strong showing in the discus throw with Paige Newby finishing second with a toss of 150-5, while Nick Jones won the men’s event, throwing his discus at 178-1.
While Hood and the rest of the team were splashing around in Waco, Coach Sam Burroughs and the long distance team were racing out in Walnut, Calif., at the Mt. Sac Relays. The races, held just east of Los Angeles, were an opportunity for the Wildcats to compete in the 5,000-meter race. Burroughs regarded the Mt. Sac Relays as an excellent test for his runners against some top-notch competition.
“The Mt. SAC relays is known nationwide for its great tracks and large fields of 30-40 great runners. With the large field, you can get towed along running really fast,” Burroughs said.
The highlight of the entire competition was Amos Sang, who ran the third fastest time in ACU history for the 5,000-meter race, clocking in at a time of 13:57.76 and gaining an automatic bid to nationals. Cleophas Tanui and Daniel Maina also ran times good enough for provisional bids. On the women’s side, Winrose Karunde scored a provisional time of 17:11.80. All of ACU’s provisional times could become nationals’ spots depending on how quick times are recorded the rest of the season.
The next event for ACU is the Penn Relays Carnival in Philadelphia until Saturday. This event will be the first time ACU athletes will compete in the 10,000-meter race and the steeplechase this season. Daniel Maina won the steeplechase at the Penn Relays in 2008 en route to winning the 2008 national steeplechase title.
“Last weekend was an opportunity to run very fast in the 5,000-meter, now we flip the events,” Burroughs said. “The focus is now on the 10,000-meter and the steeplechase. Similarly to Mt. SAC, this event has lots of great athletes, and we hope to get more qualifiers.”