May 8, 2009
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
This coming week, for the first time in 41 years the University of Wyoming track and field team will be hosting a conference championship. Eight teams from the league will travel to Laramie to compete in the Mountain West Conference Outdoor Championships.
The last time UW hosted a conference championship was in 1968 and the Cowboys and Cowgirls were in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). This year's MWC Championships will take place at the Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex, Wednesday through Saturday, May 13-16.
Tickets are priced at eight dollars for adults and four dollars for children, with an All-Championship pass available for $15 for Friday and Saturday. The first two days of competition will be the women's heptathlon and men's decathlon and will be free to the public. Action on Wednesday and Thursday will begin at noon while field events on Friday will kick off at 11 a.m. The final day of action will conclude on Saturday with field events and track races starting at noon, awards ceremonies will begin at 4 p.m.
"We are very excited to have the opportunity to host this great tournament and compete in front of our home crowd," said head Wyoming coach Don Yentes. "We have hosted meets here before and they have run extremely well and this one will be no exception. This University has not hosted any type of championship since the MWC started ten years ago and it will be a great opportunity to show off what a great town and community this is."
The Cowboys enter the championships with seven Regional Qualifiers while the Cowgirls have four individuals. The `Pokes have five individuals that are currently in the top-3 in the conference in their respective events. All four Cowgirls are ranked in the top-6 in the conference.
Leading the way for the Cowboys are senior Jake Shanklin in the hammer throw, sophomore Jeremiah James in the long jump and triple jump, and sophomore Eliud Chirchir in the 800-meter run. Shanklin is leading the conference and is currently ranked ninth in the nation in the hammer throw, as he still searches for his first conference championship in that event. He owns three during the indoor season in the 35lb weight throw. James is the returning outdoor long jump champion and leads the conference while he enters the championships as the second-best triple jumper. Chirchir owns the third-best time in the MWC in the 800-meter run while being ranked 34th in the nation.
Rounding out the regional qualifiers for the `Pokes are Mark Korir in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, Philemon Kimutai in the 1,500-meter run, Sam Lambert in the hammer throw, and Joe Plante in the discus throw.
As for the Cowgirls, senior Sharon Larrier in the 400-meter dash, sophomore Afiya Walker in the 400-meter dash, junior Emily Higgins in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 1,500-meter run, and junior Johnna Jeffries in the high jump lead the team. Larrier and Walker make a nice one-two punch in the 400-meter dash as their times are fourth and sixth respectively in the conference. Higgins ranks second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and fourth in the 1,500-meter run, while Jeffries ranks second in the conference in the high jump.
"We are not a very deep team, however, our top athletes are as good as anyone in the conference," said Yentes. "We just need them to come out and do what they do and take care of their business and hope that some follow along in their footsteps."
The Cowboys and Cowgirls will be competing against not only the best in the conference but some of the best in the nation. On the men's side, Lee Emanual from New Mexico, who won the national championship in the indoor 1-mile run this past indoor season and is ranked second in the nation in the 1,500-meter run. Kyle Perry, from BYU is ranked third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and eighth in the 5,000-meter run. The sprinters from TCU own the eighth-best 4X400-meter relay team in the nation.
On the women's track, Lacey Cramer of BYU is ranked second in the nation in the 800-meter run while her teammate Katie Palmer is ranked fourth. TCU's 4X400-meter relay team is ranked third in the nation with one of the most dynamic sprinters in the conference, Jessica Young. She is ranked sixth in the nation in the 100-meter dash, 10th in the 200-meter dash, and 11th in the 400-meter dash, leading the conference in all three. On the field, the University of New Mexico has the fourth-best javelin thrower in the nation in Katie Coronado.
"Next week there will be more All-Americans or future All-Americans competing in one place than ever before," said Yentes. "There are a great group of track athletes competing, every event will be very tough and competitive."
Along with the festivities of the week, the University of Wyoming track teams will be hosting an Alumni meet and greet, Friday the 15th at 6:30 in the Roach Room. There will also be a barbecue immediately following the last event on Saturday the 16th at the Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex, tickets are available at www.wyomingathletics.com. The alumni package will provide a T-shirt as well as an All-Championships pass.