Wyoming Goes For Bumpy Ride On Day Three Of MWC Championships

May 13, 2011

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -

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The Wyoming track and field student-athletes saw Friday how topsy-turvy the Mountain West Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships can be.

The Cowboys and Cowgirls hit the track in Fort Collins, Colo., for the third day of the conference meet. The day's action featured peaks of achievement and valleys of disappointment. Fifteen individuals set new personal-best marks, but an injury and some unexpectedly subpar performances also set the tone for the day.

After eight events, the Cowgirls were in ninth place out of nine teams with three points. The Cowboys were fifth out of six teams with 19 points after seven events.

"It was a roller coaster today," Wyoming coach Don Yentes said. "We had a lot of things that happened, like finishing ninth (and out of the finals), missing the finals by a hundredth of a second. It kind of wears you down after a while, to be truthful.

"One moment you have a big high, the next moment something disastrous happens (but) we had some outstanding performances. That's all you ever want to ask."

The highlights for the Cowgirls included Ashley Hutchinson, who began the scoring for Wyoming in the hammer throw. She placed sixth with a toss of 181 feet, 2 inches, which put her 10th on UW's all-time top-10 list for that event. Amanda Aimone was 10th in the same event, with a throw of 167-7. Emily Moore was 12th in the long jump, 17-9.

Erin Kirby qualified for Saturday's finals in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.28 seconds, and shocked the field in the 400-meter hurdles, posting the top time of 59.89 seconds. It marked the first time that Kirby had run the 400 at the collegiate level. She was followed closely by teammate Diana Long, who posted a time of 1:00.01, a personal-best mark and second overall on the day. Those times put Kirby and Long third and fourth on the UW all-time top-10 list, respectively.

"Erin Kirby and Diana Long probably secured their spots at the (NCAA) national meet," Yentes said.

Afiya Walker and Lindsey Simmons finished first and sixth in the qualifying trials of the 400-meter dash, respectively. Walker had the top time in the field with a mark of 53.91 seconds, while Simmons was sixth, 55.90. Simmons' time put her eighth all-time in UW history.

Candace Wollert was seventh overall in the 800-meter race with an altitude-converted time of 2:10.16, which makes her the second-fastest 800 runner in Wyoming history.

The Cowboys also had several solid finishes Friday, starting with Aaron Praska, who qualified for the finals in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 54.83 seconds. Tyler Skinner was fifth in the high jump, hitting a mark of 6 feet, 6 inches.

Joe Riccio was the top finisher of the day for Wyoming in the hammer throw, finishing fourth with a mark of 188-8. Mark Sparks was seventh in the same event (182-4).

Shortly after, Garrett Zans led for much of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, and ended up in fourth with an altitude-converted time of 8:56.31, good for seventh on UW's all-time list. Michael Banks was seventh in the race, 9:13.97, and Nik Deininger was 10th, 9:48.56.

Lenyn Leonce, last year's MWC outdoor long jump champion, finished eighth with a jump of 22 feet, 10 inches. He also qualified for the finals in the 200-meter dash, sprinting to a time of 21.50 seconds. That time put him fifth on UW's top-10 list. Brandon Douglass and Mark Flegel qualified for the finals in the 110-meter hurdles.

There was a mishap for the Cowboys in the 100-meter dash, when the team's top sprinter, Mario Harris, sustained a hamstring injury near the end of the race. He still managed to qualify for the finals along with teammate Travis Gunderson, who made the finals for the first time in his UW career.

"We saw a major disaster on our men's team when Mario Harris pulled his hamstring," Yentes said. "It not only killed us for conference, but it took away some big opportunities for our program at that next level. It was just a roller-coaster kind of day for us."

The action begins on the final day of the MWC Championships at 11 a.m. Saturday with the men's pole vault, followed by the women's 4-by-100-meter relay at 11:30 a.m.