Air Force Wraps Up Second Day of MW Championships

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USAF ACADEMY, Colo. – The Air Force track and field team wrapped up the second day of competition at the 2014 Mountain West Indoor Track and Field Championships this evening (Feb. 28) at the Academy’s Cadet Field House. The men posted a pair of top-three finishes, while the women added their third top-three finish in as many years.

Air Force earned top-three finishes from juniors Kobi Rex and Blue Kearney, as Rex took second on the high jump and Kearney earned third-place honors on the long jump. Bolstered by first-attempt clearances on three of his four bars, Rex secured second-place with a jump of 6’11”, despite falling victim to a pulled hamstring on his first chance at the 7’0¼” mark. Kearney recorded the fifth-best distance in Academy history (24’2¼”) to take third in the long jump, while marking the first time since 2006 that an Air Force gymnast has finished within the top three of that event.

Freshman Taylor Smith and junior Kyle Gartrell added additional scoring finishes to the Falcons’ haul in those events. In his first conference meet, Smith cleared 6’6¾” to finish in a tie for fourth on the high jump, while Gartrell earned a fifth-place distance of 23’1¼” in the long jump. The top-eight long jump finishes by Kearney and Gartrell marked the first time since 2007 that multiple Falcons have scored in that event.

Junior Evan McDowell closed out his heptathlon competition, scoring a career-best 5,211 points to place fourth. McDowell easily won the 1000-meter run with a time of 2:49.08 – a full five seconds ahead of the event’s runner-up. The junior also placed third in the pole vault with a clearance of 13’5¼”, while adding a personal-best time of 8.47 to finish fourth.

Senior William Kent recorded a season-best distance of 62’6½” to place fourth in the weight throw, while junior Riley Coates finished fifth in the 5000-meter run with a time of 15:27.97. The distance medley relay of senior Matthieu Caldwell, senior Josh Nielsen, sophomore Grant Caswell and senior Charlie Perkins rounded out the night with a fifth-place combined time of 10:37.04.

After the first day of competition, the men are currently ranked third with 40.50 points. Colorado State leads the competition with 69.50 points, while New Mexico is in second with 66.50 points. Air Force holds third, while Wyoming (31 points), Boise State (14) and Utah State (9.50) round out the men’s field.

The distance medley relay team of junior Taylor Drolshagen, sophomore Naomi Alston, junior Rebecca Esselstein and sophomore Hannah Everson posted the women’s highest finish of the day, as they combined for a third-place time of 12:12.32. When converted for altitude to 11:53.09, the quartet debuted in fourth on the Academy’s all-time list.

Senior Paige Shirley and sophomore Riley Vann scored for the Falcons on the pole vault, as they finished seventh and eighth, respectively. Shirley cleared a season-high mark of 12’2½” to take seventh, while Vann tied for eighth with a height of 11’10½” – a clearance just shy of her career high.

The women are currently in ninth with 8.50 points. New Mexico leads the competition with 61 points, while just three points separate San Diego State (33) and Wyoming (31). Fresno State is currently fourth with 22.50 points, while Colorado State and Boise State are tied for fifth with 20 points each. Utah State is just two points behind (18), while Nevada is in eighth with 16 points. UNLV is currently in 10th with three points, while San Jose State rounds out the 11-team field with two points.

Several qualifying heats were also contested today at the Cadet Field House Indoor Track.

Junior Jake Spuller and senior Josh Nielsen used personal-best times to advance to tomorrow’s finals in the 400-meter dash, with Spuller finishing fourth in 48.86 and Nielsen placing eighth in 49.49. The Falcons used those same placements to advance a pair of athletes in the 800-meter run, as junior Zach Perkins finished fourth with a time of 1:55.61 and senior Alex Lindsay finished eighth in 1:55.66. Sophomore Joey Wilkin also qualified to the finals of the 60-meter hurdles, finishing third in his heat and fifth overall with a career-best time of 8.14.

On the women’s side, senior Annette Eichenberger won the qualifying heat of the 800-meter run, posting a time of 2:10.83, while junior Rebecca Esselstein finished fifth in the preliminary heat of the mile run behind a time of 5:16.05.

The Falcons conclude action at the 2014 Mountain West Indoor Track and Field Championships tomorrow (Saturday, March 1), beginning with the men’s shot put at 10 a.m.