Considerable Improvement!

What a difference a year makes! Last in the field in both men's and women's competition last year, the Boise State track team rebounded in a big way under new Head Coach J.W. Hardy. The Bronco men finished second and the women took third at the WAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Ruston, Louisiana today.

Onward and upward for the Boise State track teams!  

Both Bronco teams exhibited improvement by leaps and bounds over last season, when the outdoor teams both finished last.  The Boise State men finished second while the Bronco women took third yesterday at the Western Athletic Conference Track and Field Championships in Ruston, Louisiana.  

The men showed steady progress this season, constantly raising their performances and subsequently their projected points.  Coming into the meet, Boise State was projected to finish second by 70 points to Utah State.  The Aggies prevailed, though by a much smaller margin than anticipated.  At one point last night, the Broncos had narrowed that deficit to 17 and actually had a slim chance of erasing the entire 70 points.  

Utah State won it's second consecutive and third overall men's title with 173 team points to 141 for Boise State.  Host Louisiana Tech came on strong down the stretch with great performances in the sprints to steal third place with 128 points.  Fresno State was fourth with 113 points followed by Idaho with 92.  

To go from fifth place to second is impressive enough.  The performance by the Boise State women was perhaps even more remarkable.  The women's competition includes three more WAC schools than the men's.  

Boise State rocketed from eighth place just one year ago to third with 93 team points, the highest outdoor finish in school history.  The homestanding Tech women won their sixth consecutive title with a school-record 194 points to 175.5 for Idaho.  Utah State, the pre-meet favorite to take third, settled for fourth with 80 points.  Hawai'i used a strong finish in the high jump to finish fifth with 74.5 points, followed by Fresno State with 69 with Nevada and New Mexico State both scoring 66.      

Coach J.W. Hardy oversaw the huge improvement and deserves considerable credit.  Hardy came to Boise State a little over a year ago as one of the most respected track coaches in the nation.  His teams at Northern Arizona were consistently among the tops in the country.  His success in a year's time shows that he was yet another in a long line of great hires by Boise State Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier.  

Junior Kurt Felix started the Broncos off this week with a resounding victory in the decathlon that ranks as the nation's 14th-best and the title of the WAC's top athlete.  Buoyed by that win, the fired-up Boise State team put in several strong performances of their own.  

Senior superstar Eleni Kafourou captured her second WAC title of the week and the 12th of her illustrious career with a brilliant performance in the women's triple jump yesterday. Perhaps jolted by a long jump championship on Friday that was much closer than anticipated (Kafourou won by two inches!), she flew through the air and did not land until she had recorded the fifth-best triple in the nation (43-feet, 7.25 inches).  This time, Eleni won by over two feet (Louisiana Tech's Brittany Guy jumped 41-6.5).  

Tech's women also finished third (Quatisha Williams—41-5), fifth (Sapphira Brown (39-1.25) and sixth (Markeva Dave (39-1) in the event that would go a long way towards catching and eventually surpassing Idaho, which held the lead going into yesterday's final day of competition.   

Boise State has featured strong javelin throwers for over a decade, and it's no surprise that two Broncos battled each other for several hours before one was crowned WAC Champion.  Senior Pontus Thomee tossed the spear 230 feet, 1 inch, his best mark of the season, to win the competition over Felix, who threw a lifetime best of 220 feet, 4 inches himself.  Thomee vaulted into 15th nationally with his WAC-winning effort.  Eetu Viitala also posted a season-high of 193 feet, 10 inches to place fifth.

The Bronco men exploded for 20 points in the triple jump after scoring 26 in the long jump Friday night.  Senior Zacharias Arnos duplicated his long jump win to take home the gold in the triple and sweep the WAC vertical jumps.  Arnos hopped, skipped and jumped his way 53 feet, 7 inches to top Tech's Jonathan Keys by over four feet.  Felix, who also finished second in the long jump Friday, came in third with a jump of 48-1.75.  Freshman Rolando Trammel showed that his great promise is being transformed into performance before our eyes, taking fourth with a jump of 47-5. 

Arnos just missed his top jump of 53 feet 9.75 inches earlier this year that ranks third in the nation.  The performance just under that feat shows that he will be a factor at the NCAA National Championships later this month.  Arnos also ranks 18th in the country in the long jump.

Felix, who finished second in the high jump and long jump Friday in addition to his decathlon win and second and third-place performances in the javelin  and triple jump, respectively, scored  38 individual points and was named the WAC's Field Athlete of the Meet.  Louisiana Tech's Albert Fullwood's meet was remarkable as well.  All the Bulldog senior did was win the 200-meters in 20.71 seconds, take home the WAC title in the 400 (46.61) and help win the 400-meter (39.89) and 1600-meter relay (3:10.78) for Tech.  The four WAC championships for Fullwood made him the obvious choice as the top WAC Track Athlete.

Fullwood was previously ranked 45th in the 200 with his season-best time of 20.91.  His 200-meter win yesterday enabled him to shoot up to #17 in the country.  He also owns the #38 ranking in the 400 and the season-best time in the 400-meter relay by Louisiana Tech is good for 19th in the nation. 

Boise State's female short hurdlers turned in the best performance in school history yesterday and it was a pair of freshmen that were responsible. This is not traditionally one of the Broncos' better events but Mariani Maldonado and Monisha Davis appear ready to change that. Maldonado and Davis ran lifetime bests of 13.70 and 13.87 in the 100-meter event to finish third and fourth, respectively. The talented freshman duo are approaching the top 50 in the nation in their first year at Boise State.

Megan Olivetti joined Maldonado and Davis on the podium in the event with a sixth-place finish (14.18) as Boise State scored 14 team points. It not only was the most of the eight conference teams in the event but was the top performance by Bronco women in the meet. Antoinette Cobb of Louisiana Tech turned in a sterling performance of 13.07 to win the title. Cobb's time was 23/100th's of a second behind the 11 year-old record of 12.84 set by Miesha McKelvy of San Diego State and elevates Cobb to sixth in the nation this year.

Maldonado is #2 all-time at Boise State in the 100-hurdles and thanks to yesterday's performance, Davis is now #3. Fellow freshman Emily Funkhouser's career-best of 1:02.16 earned fifth in the 400-hurdles. With Joi Glass taking seventh (1:02.89) and Maldonado eighth (1:04.01) in the 400, the Bronco future is bright indeed in women's hurdles.

Pole vault is another event that has not been one of Boise State's strongest events in years past but that too could be changing. Junior Daniel Thompson is showing the other Broncos what can be done. Thompson cleared 15-2.75 to take home fifth place. That finish, combined with a 3-6-7 finish by BreAnna Craig, Annelise Bertleson and Heidi Dorling, respectively, Friday night in the women's pole vault has Bronco fortunes changing in that event as well.

Strongman Chase Sexton also concluded a great meet with a third-place finish in the shot put (55-4.25). It was Sexton's second career-best performance of the week, as he went from a #8 seed to second in the WAC Friday night in the discus.

Freshman Alyssa Osai's career-best of 174 feet, 6 inches helped her earn All-WAC honors in the women's hammer throw by finishing fourth to lead a strong Bronco contingent. Junior Mele Vaisima was fifth with a mark of 169-9 and Nadine Russell captured seventh (163-10). The trio of discus throwers earned Boise State 11 team points, one of the Lady Broncos' top events. Vaisima also was fifth in the discus yesterday with a throw of 156-1, while Osai's career-best of 145 feet earned her a seventh-place finish.

Coach Hardy was thrilled with the performance of the women's 4 x 100-meter relay team of Kafourou, freshmen Racquel Jones and Destiny Gammage and anchor Taryn Campos. That quartet ran a season best of 46.36 to finish third. A third-place finish is usually not extraordinary. However, given the tremendous talent of the Tech sprinters that set a blistering pace of 44.30 seconds to win the event, the performance of the four Bronco gals is worth noting. They finished just 2.06 seconds behind the Bulldog relay team that not only ran their career best but also turned in the 10th-best mark in the nation this year.

After the relay, all Kafourou did was head over the high jump competition and place seventh (5-3.75), in addition to her WAC titles in the long and triple jumps. She not only is far and away the top female track athlete in school history but very well could be the top female athlete ever at Boise State.

Jones also earned a point in the 100-meters, where her time of 12.07 ranked seventh. Her continued improvement this spring is a major reason why the Bronco women were able to take home the bronze in the WAC this year.

Trammel is another star quickly building his resume. In addition to his fourth-place finish in the triple and his fifth-place honors in the long jump Friday night, Trammel recorded two more lifetime bests and fifth-place finishes in the 110 and 400-meter hurdles. The talented freshman ran the 110 in 14.57 and followed that up by finishing the 400 in 51.96 seconds. He also helped the Broncos' 4 x 400-meter relay team score points.

Credit has to go to former Bronco Coach Mike Maynard for not only establishing Boise State as a national power in track and field but also setting the table for what appears to be even greater achievements in the near future. Maldonado, Davis, Jones, Gammage, Trammel and long-distance runners Jeff Howard and Kevin Rosaaen—the freshman class brought in by Maynard is already paying dividends for Coach Hardy and Boise State and may go down in history as one of the school's best-ever.

Michael Walrath's career-best of 1:50.71 in the 800 earned All-WAC honors and a third-place finish for the Broncos. Paul Robertson scored points for the Bronco men with a fifth-place finish in the 400 (49.02) while senior Paige Olivetti took eighth on the women's side with a time of 56.44.

Already knowing that Utah State had clinched the team title, the Bronco men's 1600-meter relay team of Trammel, Dusty Klein, Robertson and Walrath) turned in a season-best of 3:12.94 anyway to finish third. The Bronco women's relay quartet of Paige and Megan Olivetti, Campos and Glass was fourth with a season-best of 3:45.66.

Besides the outstanding individual achievements of Boise State's Felix and Louisiana Tech's Fullwood, several other WAC student-athletes should be saluted for contributing to an amazing WAC Championships in Ruston. Senior Mykael Bothum of Idaho and junior Rosario Sanchez of Fresno State battled it out in the women's shot put Friday night. Bothum prevailed with a heave of 52-8.25 to top Sanchez by a little over three inches. Bothum and Sanchez now rank 19th and 22nd in the country, respectively with those marks.

Idaho's James Rogan, the WAC winner in the discus, threw 217-4 Friday (13th in the country). Rogan's throw of 221-7 earlier in the season ranks eighth in the nation.

For the women, Idaho's Allix Lee-Painter, who garnered women's Outstanding Track Performer and High Point Awards, nearly brought the WAC title to Moscow. She won the grueling 10,000 meters by nearly 36 seconds Friday night (36:16.67) after outclassing the field by nearly 25 seconds Friday morning in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:26.18). Lee-Painter then proceeded to win the long distance triple crown by taking the WAC title in the 5,000 (17:06.92). Teammate Ulrike Hartz was awarded the women's top Field Performer. Hartz is now 20th among NCAA women after a season-best javelin toss of 161-5.

Hawai'i junior Amber Kaufman once again won the high jump by clearing an even 6 feet. Kaufman, who was able to leap 6-3 and a quarter in March, is ranked #1 in the nation in that event. The jumping on the islands must be contagious, as teammate Sarah Saddleton soared 5-10.75 to take second Saturday afternoon—that mark ties Saddleton for 18th in the country.

TeRina Keenan and Phelecia Reynolds of Louisiana Tech put on a dazzling show for the Ruston crowd viewing the discus competition yesterday afternoon. Keenan's WAC-Championship throw of 176-feet, 4 inches, enabled the Hawai'i sophomore to rocket from 25th to 10th in the national standings and Reynolds' second-place toss of 172-2 is now good for 18th.

Louisiana Tech swept the Freshman of the Year awards, with Josh Goree and Quanisha Sales earning those accolades. Sales shot through the pack in her first year in winning the 100 (11.45—24th in the nation) and the 200 (23.69) and also ran a leg on that 4 x 100-meter relay team that won the WAC and is ranked 10th nationally. Goree finished third (48.31) in a 1-2-3 Tech sweep of the 400 and was fifth in the 200 (21.67) in an impressive 1-2-3-5 finish for the Bulldogs that helped them rally late for a third-place team finish in the WAC. Goree's role in the men's 400-meter relay team helped them win the title with a time of 39.89, 19th nationally.

Nick Karren of WAC Champion Utah State crossed the tape in 50.35 seconds to win the 400-meter hurdle championship. Karren's mark placed him ninth in the nation heading into the NCAA Championships. Teammate Joe Canavan won the shot put with a throw of 60-3.25, just missing his best of 60-4.50 that ranks 14th in the country.

Senior Frank Sanders leaves Fresno State with considerable accomplishments. He was a double-winner for the Bulldogs, edging Idaho's Josh Dalton by 1/100th of a second to win the 800-meters and winning the 1,500-meters with a time of 3:49.61

Utah State's Gregg Gensel once again won men's Coach of the Year while Tech's Gary Stanley earned women's Coach of the Year honors.

With the outstanding team turnaround this season, Felix, Arnos, Kafourou and perhaps others from Boise State will turn their attention to the NCAA National Championships. The final list of participants will be determined later this week with the Nationals hosted by Austin, Texas in two weeks.

Team Scores (Through all events): Men: 1. Utah State, 173 2. Boise State, 141 3. Louisiana Tech, 128 4. Fresno State, 113 5. Idaho, 92

Women: 1. Louisiana Tech, 194 2. Idaho, 175.50 3. Boise State, 93 4. Utah State, 80 5. Hawaii, 74.50 6. Fresno State, 69 7. Nevada, 66 7. New Mexico State, 66

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