WSU men’s track and field wins back-to-back AAC Outdoor Championships
TAMPA, Fla. (Release) – The Wichita State men’s track and field team repeated as American Athletic Conference Outdoor team champions, while the women finished seventh Sunday at the USF Track and Field Stadium.
“This is a massive validation for our team,” head coach Steve Rainbolt said. “I am so proud of these guys. Every guy mattered, exactly like a year ago. It took all sorts of terrific efforts on the part of our athletes.”
The Shocker men overcame a projected 38-point deficit to Houston on the final day of competition to claim their second-straight AAC Outdoor Championship team title with 154 points, beating the Cougars by just two points.
“That was the most amazing championship that I’ve ever been involved with,” Rainbolt said. “I love it when it comes down to the 4x400, I love it when it’s two points, and I love it when everybody matters.”
Wichita State slowly chipped away at Houston’s lead, outperforming the form chart in a handful of events. The Shockers had closed the gap to a four-point deficit (142-138) with just the 5,000 meters and 4x400-meter relay remaining, but the 5K runners, led by Adrian Diaz-Lopez collected 10 points to the Cougars’ zero to gain a 6-point lead going into the 4x400.
“The distance runners were just unbelievable,” Rainbolt said.
Diaz-Lopez scored five points with a fourth-place finish (14:14.80; PB), followed by Clayton Duchatschek in sixth (14:23.43; 3 pts) and Ben Flowers (14:26.48; 2 pts) in seventh.
A fourth-place finish in the relay, given Houston won the race, would clinch the championship for the Shockers, but the relay team of Joakim Genereux, Trace Spires, RJ Hutchison and JD Prinsloo didn’t settle for fourth. The quartet ran its fastest time of the season and the ninth-fastest time (3:10.46) in program history to secure a place on the podium and all-conference honors.
“Those guys knew what they were up against, and they ran with a terrific spirit and terrific commitment,” Rainbolt said. “It was an amazing run.”
Day three kicked off with two all-conference performances in the high jump as the outdoor high jump podium duplicated the indoor conference podium from earlier this year. South Florida’s No. 1 nationally-ranked Romaine Beckford won his second-straight outdoor title, while Brady Palen and Weston Lewis finished second (2.14m/7′0.25″) and third (2.05m/6′8.25″), respectively. Hudson Bailey also picked up three points in the event with a sixth-place finish (1.95m/6′4.75″), bringing the Shockers’ high jump point total to 17.
In the first running event of the day, the 4x100-meter relay team of Joseph Holthusen, Genereux, Bryan Haney and Jaleel Montgomery put together its fastest time of the season and the sixth-fastest time in school history (40.62) to finish fourth and score five points. Holthusen and Montgomery went on to score a total of seven more points in the 110-meter hurdles, placing fourth (14.01; PB) and seventh (14.52), respectively.
In the 1500 meters, Bryce Merriman ran a season-best 3:48.06 to finish sixth and score three points, while over in the discus, Matty Everett and Ridge Estes combined for seven points with fifth-place (53.36m/175′0″) and sixth-place (52.14m/171′0″) finishes.
Yuben Goncalves added to his medal collection, earning silver in his triple jump season debut (15.25m/50′0.5″) shortly before running a 51.25 in the 400-meter hurdles to claim bronze. Harry Barthelemy joined Goncalves on the triple jump podium after jumping 15.13m/49′7.75″ to finish third.
The Shocker 400-meter hurdlers gave the team 14 points with Toby Penner (4th; 51.28; PB) and Haney (6th; 52.12; PB) adding eight points to Goncalves’s six.
“[I love that] we did it with balance and depth, that we had athletes in every event area contributing,” Rainbolt said. “That’s team track and field, and I love that.”
After entering the championship meet slated 10th out of 11 teams, the Shocker women outperformed the projection, finishing seventh with 59 points as the UCF women won their second-consecutive title with 163 points.
“This is a fabulous validation for our women’s team to finish seventh and a significant step in the right direction,” Rainbolt said. “We had ups and downs, but we were competing hard, and I’m really proud of this women’s team. We are absolutely rebuilding.”
The Shockers earned two podium finishes on the final day of competition with Marissa Jensen placing third in the high jump with a personal-best jump of 1.79m/5′10.5″ to move up to fourth all-time in WSU history, and the 4x400-meter relay team of Sydney Johnson, Sadie Millard, Farrah Miller and Maya Fabri also earning bronze after clocking the third-fastest time in program history (3:40.67).
The 4x100-meter relay kicked off the scoring on day three of competition as Faith Turner, Zarrey Sams, Johnson and Savannah Simmons ran a 46.29 to finish seventh and score three points.
Abeba Sullivan placed eighth in the 1500 meters with a time of 4:30.79 to score one point and went on to finish seventh in the 5,000 meters, earning two more points.
Joining Jensen in the high jump scoring, Destiny Masters claimed 5 points with a fourth-place performance (1.79m/5′10.5″), and Mattelyn Swartz scored one point with an eighth-place finish (1.73m/5′8″; PB).
With the current national standings, the Shockers look to send 12 athletes to the NCAA West Preliminaries May 24-27 in Sacramento, Calif.
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