Two weeks ago the University of Idaho men's track team completed their indoor regular season with a third place finish at the WAC Championships (their highest finish since joining the conference in 2004) and a national ranking of No. 14 by Trackwire.com. The men's team has been led all season by it's nationally ranked field events. Junior Russ Winger has been among the top three in the nation all season in the shot put, and sophomore Matthew Wauters has been among the nations Top Ten in the weight throw. Both took home gold at the WAC Championships, and both qualified for the NCAA Indoor Nationals.
On the women's side, although this is considered a "rebuilding" year for Idaho, senior Melinda Owen has seemingly broken and re-established a University of Idaho pole vault record every single week. Two weeks ago she took home gold at the WAC Championships, and was listed among the nations leaders going into the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend.
For the first time in the history of Idaho's talented track program, three Vandals earned All-America honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend. Before this year, Idaho had never had more than two athletes earn the honor in a single indoor season.
Three Vandals made the journey to Arkansas for nationals, and all three earned All-America honors. All three set new personal bests this weekend, all three finished in the Top 6 in their event, and two set new University of Idaho records.
Russ Winger went into the Indoor Championships with the nations longest throw in the shot (65 feet 5 inches), a personal best which he set last weekend in Seattle. Today, Winger launched a NEW personal best, a throw of 67 feet 4 inches - almost two feet farther than the longest throw of his career. Despite the impressive throw, senior Noah Bryant of USC edged Winger in this competition with a throw 1.25 inches farther. It's been an impressive career for the junior out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, as this was Winger's second consecutive silver medal finish at the Indoor Nationals, and third career All-American honor. With the outdoor season fast approaching and one more indoor season on the horizon, the outlook is good that he can hit a gold medal mark before he is done.
Sophomore Matthew Wauters of Bainbridge, Washington was equally impressive Friday as he set a new University of Idaho weight throw record of 69 feet 9.5 inches (beating the UI record he set in January of 69-9) to take sixth at Nationals. This was his first NCAA Indoor Championship competition, and his first career All-American honor (the top eight finishers at nationals earn the honor). Among the top recruits ever at Idaho, as a high school senior he was ranked fourth in the nation in the shot put, seventh in the hammer, and 16th in the discuss.
Senior Melinda Owen of Polson, Montana, has been stellar throughout her career (two-time WAC pole vault champion, and has set UI records every year since her freshman season), and continued to impress this season as she set new personal bests (and consequently new UI pole vaulting records) virtually every week. She did it again this weekend with a vault of 13 feet 8.25 inches (which of course is a new UI record in the event), and just missed clearing 14 feet. She finished fifth in the event and earned her first All-America recognition.
Owen becomes the eighth woman in Vandal track and field history to earn an All-America honor, while Winger and Wauters are the 25th and 26th men, respectively, to earn at least one All-America honor.
The Vandal men finished with 11 total points to tie California and Oregon for 19th at the meet, giving them their highest team finish since 2001 when they finished 19th.
All of us at VandalVenue congratulate these athletes on an impressive Indoor season, and look forward to watching them and the rest of the Vandal track team compete during the outdoor season this spring.
FOR THE OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE, CLICK THE LINK BELOW:
LINK: CLICK HERE to read the UI Official Track Press Release