COLORADO SPRINGS – The athletes of CSU’s men’s track and field team knew to repeat as the Mountain West Conference Champions, they would need big performances all around. They got them, and it still wasn’t enough.
In a hotly contested battle between CSU and Brigham Young, it was the Cougars who edged out the Rams 190-176 at the Mountain West Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships Saturday at the Air Force Academy.
On the women’s side, it was a battle for second between CSU and San Diego State. The Rams fell short of second finishing with 115 points to SDSU’s 119 and BYU’s 179.5.
Though victory was not in the Rams’ cards Saturday, a bevy of excellent performances was, as both teams saw their athletes reach remarkable times and distances.
“We were, without a doubt, outstanding,” head coach Del Hessel said. “We certainly didn’t lose out due to a lack of effort.”
The ball got rolling Friday as the Rams kicked off the track competitions with a stellar performance in the men’s 5,000-meter run. Junior Dylan Olchin ran a 15:09.21 to win the event while Paul DiGrappa (15:13.06), Josh Glaab (15:13.77) and Austin Vigil (15:23.5) finished second, third and sixth, respectively.
With those points the Rams held an 83-45 lead over the Cougars going into Saturday’s finals, but it proved to not be enough.
Nevertheless, Saturday’s events brought even more surprises, especially in the men’s 60- and 200-meter dashes, where sophomore Jake Simpson (6.90 seconds) and senior Chris Riggs (21.74) upset the competition and came out as champions, respectively.
“Those were two big wins from former walk-ons,” said assistant coach Tom Flood. “To see a pair of former walk-ons outperforming big scholarship guys, that’s special.”
Simpson added that, though a surprise, his victory in the 60 was not as big an upset as some may think.
“I’m probably the only one out here who knew I could do this,” Simpson said. “I just picked it up when my team needed me.”
The women’s mile featured a tight match-up between last year’s champion Katie Yemm of CSU and BYU junior Micheala Mannova.
After leading the entire race, Yemm could not hold off a final surge from Mannova over the last 70 meters and finished second at 4:52.03 to Mannova’s 4:50.83. Yemm’s time, however, did qualify her automatically for the NCAA Indoor Championships.
“It was one of those races where I gave it all I had, but (Mannova) won,” Yemm said. “I’m happy because I did all I could, she was just won the race today.”
In what Hessel called one of the most exciting races he has seen, sophomore Becky Hammitt displayed her speed in the women’s 800 meters, coming from behind with a surge over the last 60 meters to beat out BYU’s Aneta Lemiesz, 2:11.88 to 2:13.21.
Some of the strongest performances, however, came from the strongest Rams: the weight throwers.
Senior Drew Loftin lofted his way to victory in the men’s weight throw and shot put, recording a distance of 67 feet, 3/4 inches in the weight throw and a provisional-qualifying mark of 59-1/4 in the shot.
The shot pitted Loftin against teammate Jeremy Graff in what thrower’s coach Brian Bedard called “one of the best shot competitions the men have put together at CSU.”
“We really responded in the finals,” Bedard said after the team put together an unimpressive performance in Friday’s preliminaries. “They responded to the competition today and fed off each other.”
For the women it was junior Loree Smith who led the charge recording a distance of 67-5 (third in the nation) in the weight throw and a conference-best 52-3 in the shot put.
“In the weight throw I wasn’t thinking about the competition in the conference,” Smith said. “I thought more about my place in the nation. I wanted to see if I could go out and increase my place among the nation’s best.”
With the indoor track and field season now complete for most of the Rams, the teams will turn their attention to the outdoor season where they will have another shot at defeating BYU.
Men’s All-Conference team
60-meter dash – Jake Simpson 6.90
200-meter dash – Chris Riggs 21.74
5,000 meter run – Dylan Olchin 15:09.21
Paul DiGrappa 15:13.06
Josh Glaab 15:13.77
60 meter hurdles – Justin Hazzard 8.07
High Jump – Tim Merz 6-3/4
Jacob Benson 6-5
Long Jump – Jacob Benson 24 feet
Shot put – Drew Loftin 59-1/4
Jeremy Graff 58-5
Weight throw – Loftin 67-3/4
Women’s All-Conference team
200-meter dash – Katrice Thomas 24.54
800 meter run – Becky Hammitt 2:11.88
Mile – Katie Yemm 4:52.03
Shot put – Loree Smith 52-3
Weight throw – 67-5