For the first time this season, the athletes of CSU track and field had the chance to compete in good weather at home, and they ran with it.
At the Jack Christiansen Invitational Saturday, the Rams hosted their largest home meet of the season and proved why they are considered one of the top contenders to knock off Brigham Young University and take the Mountain West Conference championship crown.
Having passed three previous home meets in dismal weather, the Rams were able to take advantage of blue skies and calm breezes to set some stellar marks in several events.
The biggest highlight came from sophomore Katrice Thomas’s performance in the women’s 400-meter dash, where she finished first while running a personal-best 54.55 seconds, just missing Andrea Bush’s school record of 54.46 set in 1990.
Thomas padded that finish with another strong showing in the women’s 200, where she finished second, running 24.38.
The Rams saw equally impressive performances from their female throwers, led by junior Keela Niemeyer who, once again, showed her versatility finishing among the top three in the women’s shot put, discus and hammer throw events.
Niemeyer’s toss of 48 feet, 5 1/4 inches in the shot put gave her another regional qualifying mark – to go along with her marks in the discus and hammer throw – and was good enough to place her second overall in the event.
The junior also threw an impressive 148-3 in the discus while finishing second, and 170-10 to place third in the hammer throw.
“Keela has been throwing strong for us all year,” said throwers coach Brian Bedard. “She’s been improving consistently every week.”
Freshman Haley Hunt continued her march up the ladder on the school’s books as she threw a freshman-record 172-8 in the women’s hammer throw to place second in the event that saw Rams take the top five spots overall.
For the men it was junior Bill Michel who came out and did what he said he wanted to do: run a regional-qualifying mark in the men’s 1,500.
Michel got off to a strong start in the race and never looked back as he cruised to a season-best 3:52.26, narrowly defeating Anthony Martinez of Adams State College to win the event.
Showing off his versatility in the men’s 800 was MWC Athlete of the Week Mike Nicks, who blazed to a 1:51.97 and first-place finish, while Brian Kelly (1:52.31) and Ben Marvin (1:53.39) followed in second and third, respectively.
While their teammates were competing at the Jack Christiansen Invitational, a group of Rams – composed of hurdlers and middle-distance runners – traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, to compete in one of the most prestigious meets in the nation: the Drake Relays.
During two days of competition the Rams battled with some of the best in the nation while competing in events they normally would not take part in.
“This was more of a meet to get our name out there and see if we couldn’t break a few school records in the process,” said assistant coach John Carter.
One record did fall as the Rams 4X800-meter relay team of sophomore Becky Hammitt, junior Katie Yemm and seniors Meg Larson and Mary Ridder, ran 8:49:13 to break the former record, set in 2000, of 8:56.96.
“It was a lot of fun,” Larson said. “All the other girls did all the work running fast splits, I just tried to hold my own.”
Larson, who also finished third in the women’s steeplechase with a time of 10:43.63, added that the meet gave the Rams the chance to try their hand at something new.
“When you’re running relays you have to run your best,” she said. “You don’t want to let your teammates down.”
Also competing at the meet were hurdlers Brian Williams, Mike Horton, Tom Waido and Justin Hazzard, who finished third overall in the shuttle-hurdle relay with a time of 57.99.
The Rams now turn their attention to Lincoln, Neb., where the team will travel Saturday to compete on the same track that will host the NCAA regional meet May 30-31.
“It’s kind of a preview for regionals,” Larson said. “The competition won’t be the same, but it will be on the same track.”