Feb. 20, 2007
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming track and field programs will travel to Albuquerque, N.M. to compete Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 22-24 in the 2007 Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships. This week will mark the first time the Cowboys and Cowgirls have competed since the Husky Invite in Seattle, Wash. on February 10.
Last year, both programs finished lower than they would have liked as the men finished in sixth place of six teams and the women placed seventh of nine teams.
The Cowboys take a number of talented athletes to the championships this year. They will be led by a strong group of upperclassmen who will be looking to earn their way to the NCAA meet in March. Among those competing for Wyoming will be senior triple jumper Blake Jackson, who has already provisionally qualified for the NCAA meet in the triple jump and leads the conference in the men's long jump. Also looking to solidify a spot at the national meet will be junior transfer Jacob Shanklin. Shanklin has also provisionally qualified for nationals.
Hoping to cause some noise this year at the MWC championships will be junior sprinter Vashone West and senior Dwight Neptune. Both will be hoping to contribute for UW as they enter this week's championships ranked in the top ten in the MWC in the 200-meter and 60-meter dash events.
Men's distance runners Nick Cramer and Brian Knight, both of whom are seniors, are looking to finish their career at UW atop the conference. Knight ran the second fastest time in school history in the men's 5000-meter run at the Husky Invite earlier this month with a time of 14:29.06, while Cramer ran a season's best time in the men's 800-meter run with a time of 1:52.64.
"We are much improved from last year," said head track and field coach, Don Yentes. "If we can get all of our kids to do what they are capable of doing, we should have a very strong showing at the conference meet."
Don't count out senior distance runner Philemon Tanui and junior distance runner Mark Korir. Both Tanui and Korir earned All-MWC honors this past fall in cross country and Korir went on to earn All-America honors for his finish at the 2006 NCAA Cross Country Championships. They will be competing as members of the conference leading men's 4,000-meter distance medley.
Competing Thursday for the Cowboys will be seniors Olav Roe and Phillip Thomas. Both athletes are Wyoming's only multi-event participants and are currently ranked fourth and seventh overall in the MWC in the men's heptathlon.
For the Cowgirls, several athletes can help UW improve upon last year's seventh place finish at the indoor conference championships. Leading the way for the women will be senior sprinter Amanda Hopper, junior sprinter Sharon Larrier, senior thrower Shannon Popp and sophomore hurdler Adriana Friezen.
Hopper will travel to Albuquerque as the ninth ranked sprinter in the women's 200-meter dash and in the 400-meter dash. Larrier will enter this weekend's competition as the fourth ranked runner in the 400-meter dash, while Popp looks to defend her first place ranking in the MWC in the women's 20 lb. weight throw. Friezen will look to compete for a conference championship as she currently sits atop the conference ranking in the women's 60-meter hurdles. Friezen is a transfer from Montana State University who ran the second fastest time in Wyoming history in her first competition as a Cowgirl.
The women's 4x400-meter relay team, who is currently sitting third in the conference standings with a time of 3:48.45, will look to score team points as they vie for a conference championship. Look for sophomore sprinter Maricel DaCosta to surprise people with her abilities in the sprinting events. DaCosta has achieved both personal best and season's best times in the 60-meter dash.
Junior Gretchen Johnson will be a strong competitor in the women's distance events. Her performance at the Husky Invite earned the second fastest time in school history in the women's 5,000-meter run with a timeof 17:20.73 and a fifth place ranking in the MWC standings. Junior Shaylee Babbitt and senior Aniis Hopkins will also be looking to help the Cowgirls as they come in tied for sixth place in the conference in the 60-meter hurdles with times of 8.75 seconds respectively.
"We are a much better outdoor team than we are an indoor team at this point, but we aren't asking our kids to do anything above and beyond the call of duty, we're just asking them to go out and do what they are capable of doing," said Yentes. "If they do that, we'll have a good meet."
The next competition for the Wyoming track and field program will be determined based on the outcome of this weekend's MWC Championships. Those who qualify will be heading to Fayetteville, Ark. for the NCAA Indoor Championships, March 9-10. The Cowboys and Cowgirls will begin outdoor competition on Saturday, March 17 as they travel to Boulder, Colo. for the Potts Invitational.