UW Track and Field Heads to MWC Championships

May 9, 2007


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: WATCH interviews with senior Cowgirl sprinter Amanda Hopper and junior Cowboy thrower Jacob Shanklin.
: WATCH an interview with Wyoming head coach Don Yentes.

The University of Wyoming track and field programs will travel toSan Diego, Calif., on Thursday to compete in the 2007 Mountain West Conference Outdoor Championships.

The Cowboys and Cowgirls have had nearly two weeks to train and finish up school since they hosted the Wyoming Invitational on April 28, at the Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex and Memorial 8 Track.

Last year, both programs finished lower than they would have liked at the MWC Championships. The men finished in sixth place of six teams with 69 points, while the women placed seventh of nine teams with 43 points.

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 the NCAA Championship meet in early June.

Among those competing for Wyoming will be senior triple jumper Blake Jackson and junior thrower Jacob Shanklin.

Jackson is the 2007 MWC Indoor long jump and triple jump champion, and has qualified for upcoming meet in the triple jump event.

Shanklin was the only member of the 2006-07 indoor team that qualified for the NCAA Championships back in March and was the 2007 MWC 35lb. weight throw champion.

Also looking to make their mark this year at the MWC Championships will be junior sprinter Vashone West and senior Dwight Neptune; both of whom enter the championships ranked in the top-ten in the MWC in the 200-meter and 100-meter dash events.

"We are much improved from last year," said Wyoming 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 sophomore distance runner Mark Korir. Both Tanui and Korir earned All-MWC honors this past fall in cross country and Korir went on to earnAll-America honors for his 22nd place finish at the 2006 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Tanui has already qualified for the Midwest Regional meet in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase, as he recorded a time of 8:50.80 at the Oregon Invite last month.

Also looking to capture conference honors will be senior high jumper Jared Grant and the men's 4x100-meter relay squad. Grant and the relay team are ranked fourth and third in MWC heading into this weekend's competition.

Leading the way for the Cowgirls will senior sprinter Amanda Hopper, junior sprinter Sharon Larrier, senior thrower Shannon Popp and sophomore hurdler Adriana Friezen.

Hopper will travel to San Diego as the eighth ranked sprinter in the women's 400-meter dash, while Larrier will enter this weekend's competition as the ninth ranked runner in the 200-meter dash. Popp looks to defend her first place ranking in the MWC in the women's hammer throw event.

Friezen will look to have a solid performance in the 400-meter hurdle event, as she enters the meet ranked seventh in the MWC; while junior Shaylee Babbitt enters the championships ranked fourth in the 100-meter hurdles. The women's 4x400-meter relay team, who is currently sitting second in the conference standings with a time of 3:40.62, will look to shake things up as they vie for a conference championship.

Junior Gretchen Johnson will be a strong competitor in the women's distance events. Her performance at the Oregon Invitational last month ranks her second all-time in UW history in the women's 5,000-meter run after she recorded a time of 16:41.21. This mark was also good enough to rank her third in the MWC.

Wyoming has qualified ten individual athletes and one relay team for the 2007 Midwest Regional Championships later this month. Those athletes include: Jake Shanklin (Hammer), Shannon Popp (Hammer), Courtney Gougler (Discus), Blake Jackson (Triple Jump), Sharon Larrier (200-meters), Adriana Friezen (100 and 400-meter hurdles), John Alderson (Triple Jump), Philemon Tanui (3,000-meter steeplechase), Gretchen Johnson (5,000-meter run), Brad Charters (Hammer), Amanda Hopper and Maricel DaCosta. Hopper and DaCosta will be attending as part of the women's 4x400-meter relay team along with Larrier and Friezen.

Friezen has qualified in three different events as she will be competing in the 100-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles, and the 4x400; while Larrier will be attending the competition in the 200-meter dash and the 4x400.

The total amount of athletes attending the Regional meet 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 Ames, Iowa for the NCAA Midwest Regional Outdoor Championships, May 25-26.