Competing in the cold, windy conditions that typify spring in Colorado, the men and women of CSU track and field showed their strength in numbers.
Saturday at Nottingham Field in Greeley, the Rams ran, threw, and jumped their way to victory at the University of Northern Colorado’s Tom Benich Classic, even though the weather was unwilling to cooperate.
“The weather sucked again,” said sophomore Paul Michel, who ran a strong 1 minute, 53.42 seconds to finish fourth in the men’s 800-meter run. “It wasn’t as windy as last weekend, but it was colder than you would have wanted and it was windy enough to effect the races.”
Even so, such sub-par conditions could not hold back the Rams, especially not senior Kim Leal, who kicked off the Classic running a Nottingham Field-record 17:28.32 in the women’s 5,000.
“I think this was the best race I’ve had as far as control and tempo,” Leal said. “I did what I set out to do.”
What she set out to do was break former CSU distance runner Sarah Piccolo’s 1999 stadium record of 17:30.6.
“I watched Sarah set the record when she was a senior in my freshman year,” Leal said. “It was just one of those things I wanted to do. It’s pretty cool to have watched her do it and now, in my senior year, to do it myself.”
Senior Jen Kintzley, running in her first outdoor meet of the season, followed Leal with a 17:51.
Also making noise in his first race of the spring was junior Mike Nicks who finished first in the men’s 1,500 with a time of 3:54.41, while teammates Bill Michel (3:56.04), Ryan Kirkpatrick (3:56.64, competing unattached) and Austin Vigil (3:59. 31) took second through fourth, respectively.
Success for the Rams, however, was not limited to distance events, as the team received stellar performances in nearly every event.
Junior John Woods continued his trek on the comeback trail winning the men’s 100-meter dash with a time of 10.59 while finishing second to teammate Chris Riggs (21.6) in the men’s 200, running a 21.61.
Looking to qualify for the NCAA Regional Championships, freshmen Mike Horton and Justin Hazzard surpassed the men’s 110-meter high hurdles qualifying mark of 14.6 seconds, running 14.25 and 14.57, respectively.
Hazzard also led the way in the 400-meter hurdles, running a regional qualifying 52.69, while teammates Tom Waido and Brian Williams followed running 53.64 and 53.66, respectively.
For the women, sophomore Katrice Thomas continued to prove her worth as a sprinter running a 12.3 in the 100 and a 24.82 in the 200 while finishing third in both events.
Meanwhile in the 800, senior Mary Ridder won in her first race of the outdoor season with a time of 2:13.62 with sophomore Becky Hammitt finishing a distant second at 2:16.47.
“It was a good race for where we are at in the season,” Ridder said of the 800. “I still have a lot of work to do, but it’s always good to have an 800 under your belt.”
Senior Anya Sawyer led a slew of Ram finishers in the 1,500, finishing second at 4:43.27 while Colleen Blair and Kim Watson followed at fourth and fifth running 4:46.81 and 4:47.37, respectively.
Competing in her first 3,000-meter steeplechase of the season, senior Meg Larson blew away the competition running a stellar 10:58.49, almost a minute in front of second-place Tina Gray’s time of 11:52.26.
Not to be outdone were the throwers and jumpers who dominated the opposition.
Hannah Metzler won the women’s shot put with a toss of 49 feet, 1 inch, while the Rams took six of the top eight spots in the event. Keelya Niemeyer won the women’s discus, recording a 159-06 and finished second in the hammer throw with a toss of 173-11.
In the pole vault, junior Christine Ahn won with a height of 11-5 1/4.
For the male throwers it was the usual suspects – seniors Drew Loftin and Brian Trainor – who took control in their events.
Loftin won the shot put with a toss of 55-3 3/4, while Trainor finished second at 54-7 1/4. Trainor then threw a regional-qualifying mark of 193-08 in the men’s discus, while finishing as the first collegian. As if in response, Loftin then threw a qualifying mark of his own in the hammer throw, recording a distance of 220-2.
Having had their fill of Colorado weather, the Rams hope to now travel to more ideal conditions in Mesa and Tempe, Ariz., to compete in Friday’s Mesa Classic and Saturday’s Sun Devil Invitational.