Broncos In The Thick Of WAC Track Title Hunt

Facing an uphill battle to win WAC titles, both the Boise State men and women's track teams responded. After the first day of competition at Jackson's Track in Nampa, both teams are in good position at the 2007 WAC Championships.

Boise State's chances for winning a Western Athletic Conference championship in track and field were boosted after the first day of competition at the 2007 WAC Indoor Championships in Nampa.  The Bronco men are the defending WAC Champions and were ranked #14 in the nation last year, but the Bronco women may be trying to steal their thunder.


The Bronco women have amassed 38 points, 15 behind WAC favorite Cal-State Northridge.  Louisiana Tech is in third with 37 points.  The rebuilding Boise State men's team, meanwhile, finds itself in third place following the first day of competition.  That's much better than expected.  15th-ranked Idaho leads after Day One with 59 points, followed by Utah State with 44, Boise State with 31, favorite Northridge with 29 and Louisiana Tech with 22 points. 


Boise State's amazing Eleni Kafourou got the ball rolling for the Lady Broncos.  Kafourou registered a jump of 20 feet, 5.25 inches to win the WAC title in the high jump, beating her closest competitor by nearly four inches. 

 Then, Becky Guyette rocked the competition later in the evening by running the 5,000 meters in 17 minutes, 19.35 seconds, beating her closest competitor by nearly 26 seconds.  Guyette, who had not run the event all year, dealt a big blow to Idaho, which was expected to finish 1st and 3rd in the event and score 16 points.  Instead, the Vandal women mustered 5th and 6th place finishes for 7 points. 


The Bronco Distance Medley team of sophomores Kendra Hernandez, Nataucha Lowry and Leah Hover and freshman Jamie Hubbs nearly won a WAC title tonight as well. The foursome had not competed in a race this year, but finished second to Utah State by just two seconds.  Nevada finished third, followed by Idaho, Fresno State, New Mexico State and Cal State-Northridge. 


Hawai'i's Emily Sheppard topped Boise State's Theodora Xylaki by 1.25 inches to win the WAC high jump this afternoon.  Sheppard finished with a 5-9.75 to win the event.  Cal State-Northridge freshman Desirae Gonder snuck in for second with the same height as Xylaki (5-8.5) but fewer misses. 


Boise State's Megan Olivetti qualifies as an ironwoman.  Having qualified in the 60-meter finals and the 200-meter finals earlier in the day, she ran yet another race tonight, the 200-meter final.  Olivetti finished third with a time of 24.16.  Louisiana Tech finished 1-2 with Latonia Wilson winning the WAC title and Nina Gilbert placing second.

Given the fact that Boise State had not run the event this year, this is a huge boost to Mike Maynard's women's team.  They have been rapidly improving the last couple of years and this season as well.  With the first day results, the Bronco women have positioned themselves to have a realistic chance at knocking off favorite Northridge and winning their first-ever women's WAC Championship.  If everything went as expected (and they never do!), Northridge would defeat the Bronco women 136 to 116.  After Day One, Boise State is 8 points ahead of schedule while Northridge is -1.  The Broncos have gained 9 points on the Matador women and are now just 11 points behind with a full day to go tomorrow.   

Everyone who can should go to Jackson's Track tomorrow and root on the Lady Broncos--they can do it!


Here are the First Day women's Standings from the WAC Championships, with expected point differential in parenthesis:

1.  Cal State-Northridge--53 (-1 point)
2.  Boise State--38 (+8 points)
3.  Louisiana Tech--37 (+7 points)  
Hawai'i--25.5 (-6.5 points)
Nevada--20.5 (+15.5 points)
Utah State--20 (+13 points)
Idaho--20 (-8 points)  
New Mexico State--13 (-2 points)
Fresno State--6 (-5 points)    


Qualifying heats went well for the Bronco women as well.  Kayleen McDowell and Leah Hover both qualified for tomorrow's finals in the 800.  McDowell won her heat in 2:16.49, but is more than four seconds off the pace set by Louisiana Tech's Miriam Barnes.  Hover finished at 2:18.04, qualifying by 3/10th's of a second.  Cal State-Northridge suffered disappointment in the event when Cherie McPherson did not qualify.  She was seeded seventh and was expected to score two points.


#2 seed Breanna Sande joined teammate Kendra Hernandez as qualifiers in the women's mile final.  Sande ran a 5:10.44 to win her heat but well behind the runaway favorite, Jennie Twitchell of Utah State (5:04.34).


Lowry qualified in the 400-meters and is poised to add more points for Coach Maynard's team.  The only event in which the Broncos failed to qualify a finalist was the 60-meter dash, where Lowry was seeded eighth.


Freshman Heigo Nurmsalu led the way for the Bronco men.  Nurmsalu, the #3 seed in the pole vault, captured second tonight with a career best and is also second after one day of competition in the heptathlon.  He beat out Idaho's Mike Carpenter in the pole vault; Carpenter was seeded second headed into this weekend.  That result is key to the Broncos' chances as the Vandals are the #2 favorite in the men's competition and the head-to-head result gives Boise State 2 extra points and takes away 2 from Idaho.  Fourth seed Logan Meyer of Boise State also came through with a fourth place finish tonight in the vault.  Senior Sean Jones of Northridge won the event by over 3 inches over Nurmsalu's 15-9.


Nurmsalu is the heir apparent to Bronco All-American Keron Francis.  From the day Francis set foot on campus, his athletic versatility allowed him to win several events, including the Heptathlon.  Nurmsalu is trying to follow in those footsteps.


After the first day of competition in the heptathlon, Nurmsalu is in second place to Cal State-Northridge senior Justin Johnson, who broke Francis' record in the event earlier this season.  Nurmsalu also topped Francis' record in a meet earlier in the year.  After four events, Johnson has 3078 points to 3,000 for Nurmsalu.  Logan Moore of Utah State is in third (2,938), followed by Robert Robinson of Cal State-Northridge (2851), Utah State's John Strang (2,840), Boise State's Eric Demers (2,801), Owen Morse of Northridge (2,660), Idaho's Ian Snook (2,603) and Idaho's Chad Connaty (740), who quit after one event. 

Nurmsalu is ahead of his Boise State record pace.  He bested his high jump mark by half an inch (6-4) to score nine more points than his record-setting effort.  Johnson beat his best mark as well and added 10 more points than expected.  Bronco teammate Demers boosted his jump by nearly two inches to add 34 points to his season best in the high jump portion of the heptathlon.

Nurmsalu also won the shot put with a heave of 44 feet, 7.5 inches for 704 points--that's 42 points more than expected in that event.  Demers finished fourth among heptathletes with a 38-4.25 for 588 points. 

Demers shocked the field in the 60-meter dash. Utah State's John Strang and Logan Moore run the event on a regular basis and were the favorites.  Strang came into the meet with a personal best of 7.18 while Moore had a time of 7.23.  Demers ran a 7.21, 14/100th's of a second better than his best to add a whopping 50 points to his heptathlon total.  Strang was second  with a 7.22 (806 points), Johnson ran a 7.24 for 799 points and Moore finished in 7.29 for 782 points.  Nurmsalu also was clocked in 7.29, slightly slower than his best of 7.25.

Robert Robinson of Cal State-Northridge won the long jump portion of the heptathlon with a great leap of 23 feet, 1.25 inches (823 points).  Moore finished with 22-10 (804 points), followed by Johnson's leap of 22-5.75 (778 points) and Nurmsalu (22-5, 774 points).  Demers had a nice jump of 21 feet, 11.75 inches for 743 points.

Thus, after four events, here are the heptathlon standings with the expected points in parenthesis:

1.  Justin Johnson, Cal State-Northridge--3078 (+21 points)
2.  Heigo Nurmsalu, Boise State--3000 (+72 points)
3.  Logan Moore, Utah State--2938 (+175 points)
4.  Robert Robinson, Cal State-Northridge--2851 (+95 points)
5.  John Strang, Utah State--2840 (-75 points)
6.  Eric Demers, Boise State--2801 (+83 points)
7.  Owen Morse, Cal State-Northridge--2660 (+13 points)
8.  Ian Snook, Idaho--2603 (+109 points)
9.  Chad Connatty, Idaho--749------

Three more events remain for these talented athletes, the 60-meter hurdles, the pole vault and the 1,000-meter run.  Johnson and Moore specialize in the hurdles and will pile up points there.  Nurmsalu, meanwhile, is the third best pole vaulter in the WAC.  With his performance today, Nurmsalu could put pressure on Johnson for the league title.  Meanwhile, Demers' outstanding day gives him a legitimate shot at the top five.     


Boise State's Simon Wardhaugh captured second place in the 35-pound weight throw this afternoon.  Wardhaugh upset Idaho's Russ Winger, who was favored to take second.  Jarrod Stevens of Boise State snuck in for sixth place to add another unexpected point to the Broncos' total.  Stevens was the eighth seed going into this weekend.  #1 seed Matthew Wauters of Idaho topped Wardhaugh by less than a foot to take the title.  Kevin Liu of Utah State finished fourth, followed by Jason Moran of Louisiana Tech and Stevens.  Stevens' sixth place finish took another point away from Idaho, as Marcus Mattox of the Vandals was expected to score that point. 


Senior Brandon Christoffersen, juniors Caleb Cazier and David Creamer and sophomore Kyle Christoffersen finished third in the distance medley.  The event is not normally run, and none of the WAC teams had registered times this year.  The Broncos are not especially strong at these distances, so a third place finish is outstanding.   Utah State and Idaho finished 1-2 as expected.

Boise State's Zacharias Arnos placed fifth in the long jump  which measured 23 feet, 4.5 inches.  That's a personal best for him.  Arnos was seeded seventh, but picked up two extra points for the Broncos.  DaShalle Andrews of Northridge was incredible in winning the event, leaping 25 feet, 4.75 inches, beating second-place Kevin Pabst of Idaho by a foot.


The good news did not end there for the Broncos but extended to qualifying heats.  Coach Maynard is especially glad Sterling Small is back.  The Broncos' best hurdler has not competed in the 60 meter hurdles this indoor season, but he ran an 8.12 tonight, good for fourth among qualifiers.  Small hopes to break up Northridge's hold on the event--they are expected to score 20 points and four of their hurdlers qualified for tomorrow's finals. 


Kyle Christoffersen and Sean Chaney-Waller both qualified to tomorrow's final in the 400 meters for Boise State.  Chaney-Waller was seeded ninth in the event, but ran the fourth fastest qualifying time (48.87).  Christoffersen finished in 48.71.  Cal State-Northridge hoped to place three runners in the final, but both Kevin Nious and Kevin Fahie failed to qualify.


Boise State's Caleb Cazier and Matt Schmasow did their job, qualifying for tomorrow's 800-meter final.  Boise State had entered four other runners in the hopes of maybe sneaking in for some more points, but none of them made the cut tonight.


Marlon Douglas ran a personal best of 22.22 to grab the eighth and final qualifying spot in tonight's 200-meter run, then exceeded that effort with a 22.09 to place fifth.  #1 seed DJ Smith of Utah State won the event with a sterling 21.30, beating out Louisiana Tech's Mike Coleman by 1/100th of a second.


All in all, a great day for the Bronco men in their quest to repeat as WAC Champions.  They still have a long way to go.  Bottom line is--Boise State was supposed to finish today in last place with 17 points.  Instead, they are in 3rd with 31, and ahead of favorite Northridge.

After Day One at Jackson's Track, here are the men's standings, with expected point differential in parenthesis (plus totals are high because the Distance Medley Relay had not been run by any of the teams this year):

1.  Idaho--59 (+1)
Utah State--44 (+14)
Boise State--31 (+14)
4.  Cal State-Northridge--29 (+3)
Louisiana Tech--22 (even)






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