Utes place sixth at MWC Championships
Feb. 25, 2007
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The University of Utah Track and field team had a great weekend in Albuquerque, N.M., as they broke or tied six school records and placed sixth at the Mountain West Conference Championships.
The Utes scored 45 points at the championship, which was enough to give them sixth place behind Wyoming (47 points), San Diego State (76), TCU (116), Colorado State (122), and BYU, which placed first with 179 points.
"This year's championships were much more difficult than last year because I think the coaches and teams in our league do such a good job," says coach Kyle Kepler. "It was a tribute to the athletes and their effort to score the points we did. They fought for every point and never gave up."
The Utes were able to survive the usual momentum swings of a championship meet by producing 12 personal best performances among the six school records that were broken or tied. Amanda Feigt started it off on Thursday by breaking her own pentathlon record with 3,891 points to finish second in that event.
On Friday Feigt had her first-ever jump over the 20-foot barrier in the long jump (20-1) and placed third overall for her second all-conference performance of the meet. That mark was also an NCAA provisional qualifying mark.
Sophomore Chelsea Shapard broke two school records on Friday. In the 200m dash prelims, she took down teammate Ashley Patterson's six-day-old school record by running 25.23 (13th overall). That mark was .05 seconds faster than the previous mark. In the 400m dash prelims Shapard broke Feigt's school mark with a time of 54.83. That time moved her into Saturday's final where she took fifth overall with an equally impressive time of 54.98.
Whitney Wellington continued her rampage on the 60m dash school record as she lowered her own record (for the fourth time this season) by .05 with a time of 7.72 seconds in the prelims (17th overall). Senior Jennifer Cutrer saved her best for last as she tied April Jackson's school record in the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.60. That time was a .12 lifetime best for Cutrer and placed her fourth overall. The final event of the meet produced the sixth and final school record as the Runnin' Ute quartet of Feigt, Patterson, Wellington, and Shapard combined to run 3:46.26 in 4x400m to improve the school mark by 1.5 seconds.
Kepler also gave special mention to freshmen Alyssa Abbott and Jen Neddo. Abbott came into the conference meet ranked 17th in the 800m run. Abbott charged to the front in her prelim and then hung on to claim the ninth and final qualifying spot in the finals with a personal best time of 2:14.76. In the finals, Abbott ran a very intelligent race for another huge personal best time of 2:12.89 which was good for fifth overall.
"It's effort and a belief like Alyssa had that really sums up our effort this weekend. Our group never once thought they couldn't qualify for a final or place well once they got there. As this group matures and becomes more comfortable competing at that high level, this program will continue to grow and get better."
Neddo (who is a walk-on) tied for eighth in the high jump to score a half a point. Neddo also competed in the pentathlon (her first time ever in that event).
A very complimentary Kepler stated, "Our plan was to use this year as a learning year for Jen in the multi event. However, she progressed in several of the disciplines faster than we expected. About 10 days before the conference meet, we asked her if she would be willing to do it. She didn't think twice and agreed to do it if it might help the team. While she didn't score in that event, the effort she gave in an unfamiliar competition was evident to our entire team. It definitely helped set the tone for the weekend."
Kepler continued, "It's exciting to see that kind of unselfishness and that no-fear type of attitude with this group. That's what this program really needs right now and to have underclassmen in those positions is really exciting for our future. This group has really come together and will fight for each other in a sport that most view as extremely individual in nature.
Overall the Utes had two all-conference performers who combined for three top three finishes. Senior Becky Riddle was third in the weight throw and Feigt was the runner-up in the pentathlon and third in the long jump.
"Our seniors really deserve a ton of credit. They all had a great meet. Those points will be hard to make up next year, but I think they've done a terrific job of leading by example for our team that is dominated by underclassmen. I know that leadership will carry over into the outdoor season as well as future years," stated Kepler.
The Utes have had a great indoor season with 12 personal bests at the championships, 121 personal bests throughout the season, 58 all time top-ten performances, and 12 school record performances this season. In addition, Feigt had three NCAA provisional qualifying performances in two different events (pentathlon and long jump).
*Special Note: Senior pole vaulter Susan Atwater cleared 13 feet at the National Pole Vault Summit in January. That mark does meet the NCAA provisional qualifying standard, however is not officially recognized because of NCAA rules requiring that qualifying marks can only be counted if the competition is part of an NCAA sanctioned track and field meet that includes no less than 10 events and a minimum of two teams with 14 or more competitors. The Pole Vault Summit is a weekend clinic and competition that does not meet those NCAA requirements.