Sunny skies, strong winds and CSU green and gold placing first summed up this weekend’s meet at Jack Christensen Track, as the Rams defeated the field of 13 teams to win the Rob Upton Invitational on Saturday.
A Ram finished first in 16 of the 38 events.
“We were one of the few schools to field an entire team today,” CSU track and field coach Brian Bedard said. “I know CU didn’t have their entire team, but a win’s a win and we’ll take it.”
Wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour howled across the track, making competition difficult for some of the athletes.
“The wind today was a little bit of a challenge especially for the jumpers and throwers to get a consistent mark,” Bedard said. “This is outdoor track, though, everyone has to deal with the elements and it’s something everyone has to get used to.”
Five Rams fought off, or used the wind to their advantage, to hit NCAA regional-qualifying marks. Most of the qualifying marks come from the throwing squad.
“The throwers’ performance was a mixed bag today; we had some more regional marks but we also had some meltdowns and inconsistency,” Bedard said.
Senior Jason Schutz stayed consistent and used the wind to his advantage to win the men’s discus with a throw of 195-07, which was a top-five mark for the entire country.
“The wind can actually be an advantage in throwing especially in the discus as long as it is blowing in the direction you’re throwing as it kind of was today,” Schutz said.
Schutz defeated former Ram great Casey Malone, who was competing unattached. Malone finished sixth in the 2004 summer Olympics after graduating from CSU.
Sophomore Cameron Carter also qualified in the discus by finishing third with a toss of 176-11.
“I qualified last year as a freshman so it was definitely a goal of mine and kind of expected that I would qualify again this year,” Carter said. “I feel good that I was able to do it so early in the season.”
Juniors Alex Godell and Missy Faubus both double-qualified for regional qualifying marks. Godell placed first in the hammer throw with a launch of 199-02 and finished fourth in the discus with a throw of 175-05.
Faubus, who qualified last weekend in the discus, threw another solid effort of 165-03 to finish first in the event. She also qualified in the shot-put with a toss of 48-03.25.
Coach Bedard was impressed with the throwers’ performance, but also expects fewer fouls and more of a consistent approach.
“It is still early in the season so I’ll try not to wig out,” Bedard said. “I have high standards and when we have faults it can be kind of frustrating because I see what these guys can do in practice. It just takes some time and I’ll have to be patient.”
Godell has had trouble with consistency in the ring, particularly in the discus.
“I can be a little hit or miss, so right now I’m trying to build that confidence up so I can make those big throws on a consistent basis,” Godell said. “There are some technical aspects I need to work on so when the adrenaline is going and I’m trying to hit those big throws, I can do it without being out of control.”
On the track, CSU record holder in the 400-meter dash, senior Drew Morano, finished first in the event, improving on his regional qualifying-time by running a time of 46.78 seconds.
Senior Janay DeLoach would have ran a regional-qualifying time in the 100-meters, but her time of 11.50 seconds was aided by a strong tail wind up to 25 miles per hour, which was over the NCAA limit.
Other top finishers for the Rams included Melissa Thomas with a first place finish in the 5,000-meter run, Sonni Russell finishing first in the high jump with a leap of 5-06.50 and Kevin Johnson in the 110-meter hurdles, where he placed first with a time of 14.99 seconds.
“Kevin Johnson was very aggressive attacking the hurdles and had a (personal record),” Bedard said. “I really liked the way he competed.”
Another top finisher was freshman Ryan Friese in the 800-meter run. Friese joined the CSU program as a triple-jumper, but coaches thought his talent would best translate to the 800-meter.
“Every race he learns something,” Bedard said. “He is a tough guy and has bought in whole heartedly, handling the training with no whining or complaining. He is going to be great for us.”
Bedard was impressed with the turnout of students and community members to the home meet.
“There were some points in the meet when the entire bleachers were filled,” he said. “Fort Collins is typically into track so there were a lot of families with kids as well as CSU students and fellow CSU athletes.”
The Rams travel to Greeley next weekend for the Tom Benich Invitational hosted by the University of Northern Colorado.
Sports writer Stephen Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.