USAF ACADEMY, Colo. – Highlighted by three conference titles and one Academy record, the Air Force track and field team wrapped up competition at the 2014 Mountain West Indoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday, March 1, at the Academy’s Cadet Field House.
The Falcons dominated the men’s pole vault, claiming six of the top-eight placements. Junior Joey Uhle and sophomore Dylan Bell tied for first, after matching marks throughout every height, including several jump-offs that produced equal results (17’7”, a career-high for Bell and seventh on the Academy’s all-time list). Senior Cort Rogers placed fourth with a clearance of 16’8¾”, while classmate Elliott Beski and freshman Tyler Ginger finished fifth and sixth, respectively, with matching heights of 16’0¾” (personal high for Ginger). Freshman Kyle Pater cleared 15’9” to tie for seventh and round of the Falcons’ 31-point placement on the pole vault.
Bell is the third Falcon in as many years to claim a conference title in the pole vault, joining his co-champ Uhle (2013) and Cale Simmons (2012).
Air Force swept the 800-meter titles, as junior Zach Perkins and senior Annette Eichenberger captured the titles in their respective races. Perkins clocked a career-best time of 1:51.70 to win his third different event title at a conference meet, adding the 800-meter to his career haul of the mile (2013 indoor) and 1500-meter run (2013 outdoor) titles. When converted for altitude to 1:50.40, Perkins career-best time moved him into sixth on the Academy’s all-time list. Eichenberger became the women’s first individual champion in a running event at an indoor conference championship meet, as she clocked a 2:10.68 to better the field by nearly one second.
Senior Kassie Gurnell broke her own Academy record in the triple jump, taking second with a career-best distance of 41’9¾”. The mark, which added nearly a foot to her own Senior Class Record, added nearly five inches to the program standard that she set during last year’s conference meet. In fact, it is the third straight year that Gurnell has improved her own Academy record in the triple jump at the MW Championships.
The men earned multiple scoring finishes in four events.
Sophomore Grant Hamilton tossed a 58’2½” to earn silver medal honors in the shot put, while freshman Darby Maier improved his career distance to 56’1¼” to take fifth. The only throwers in the first flight of competitors to earn a scoring finish, Maier debuted in seventh on the Academy’s all-time list with that career-best throw.
Sophomore Patrick Corona used a furious final sprint down the straightaway to take second in the mile, clocking a 4:21.22 as only 0.52-seconds separated the top five runners. Freshman Matt Dorsey finished fifth in that race, clocking a time of 4:21.62.
Junior Jake Spuller and senior Josh Nielsen scored for the Falcons in the 400-meter dash, finishing fourth (48.90) and eighth (49.88), respectively. The pair also scored in the mile relay, book-ending a quartet that finished third with a time of 3:21.28. Senior Alex Lindsay, who joined Perkins among the scoring finishers in the 800-meter run (sixth, 1:54.47), ran the second leg of the relay, while junior Evan McDowell, who placed fourth in yesterday’s heptathlon, completed the group with a run in the third leg.
Sophomore Joey Wilkin finished fifth in the 60-meter hurdles behind a time of 8.21, while junior Kyle Gartrell recorded a career-best distance of 48’4” to finish sixth in the triple jump and round out the Falcons’ list of scoring (top-eight) finishers.
The men tallied 128 points to finish third, trailing second-ranked Colorado State (133 points) by just five points. New Mexico won the team title with 166.50 points, while Utah State finished fourth with 109.50 points. Wyoming (fifth, 86) and Boise State (sixth, 34) rounded out the men’s indoor field.
On the women’s side, Eichenberger added to her point-total as she ran the second-leg of the mile relay that took seventh in 3:52.59. When converted to a 4x400-meter time, the quartet of Eichenberger, Gurnell, freshman Alexa Chacon and sophomore Naomi Alston recorded the third-fastest time in Academy history (3:51.30).
Sophomore Angelea Ross joined Gurnell among the top-eight of the triple jump (eighth, 39’2¼”), as the Falcons posted multiple scoring finishes in two events. Senior Regan Rogers became the women’s first top-three finisher in the high jump, as she cleared 5’8½” to take third and classmate Regan Rogers finished eighth with a clearance of 5’6”. Junior Rebecca Esselstein rounded out the women’s scoring placewinners, as she finished eighth in the mile behind a time of 5:10.54.
The women scored 37.50 points to finish ninth. New Mexico scored 148.50 points to claim its first conference title, while Wyoming took third with 75 points. Colorado State finished fourth with 67 points, edging Boise State (65 points) by just two points. Utah State finished sixth with 58 points, while Fresno State (seventh, 50), UNLV (eighth, 46), Air Force (ninth, 37.50) and Nevada (10th, 32) rounded out the scoring field.
Following a week off from competition, the indoor season comes to a close with the 2014 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 14-15 in Albuquerque, N.M.