Pullman, Wash. – The University of Arizona Wildcat men’s and No. 12 women’s track and field teams finished the first day of competition at the Pac-12 Championships in Pullman, Wash. The meet is taking place on May 17-18 at Washington State’s Mooberry Track and Field Complex.
After completing seven events on day one, Oregon’s women sit in first place with 64 points. UCLA has 32.5 points in second place, Arizona has 30 in third place, Stanford has 29 in fourth place and Colorado’s 25 points are good for fifth. On the men’s side after completing eight events, Oregon leads with 70.25 points. Washington has 40.25 points in second place, Arizona is in third place with 30 points, USC has 29 points in fourth and UCLA sits in fifth with 28.25.
“In a championship meet, you have a lot of projections about where you want to be after the first day,” head coach Fred Harvey said. “Without actually calculating it just yet, I’m pretty sure we are ahead of pace on the men’s side and just a few points off on the women’s side. We still have day two, we’ve advanced mostly everybody to the finals that I thought we would have. The performances in the field events today were fantastic. There’s a lot of people that did well today, we’re on track and I feel like we are in good shape going into the final day tomorrow.”
Senior Julie Labonte won her fourth-straight title in the women’s shot put on Saturday with a toss of 57-2 (17.42m). Labonté was the best thrower in the competition by just under two feet. She is only the seventh woman in conference history to win four conference titles in one event and the first to ever do it in the shot put. Labonté redshirted the 2012 outdoor season but won Pac-10/12 titles in 2010, 2011, 2013 and now 2014. Labonté also won all four Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Championships during her indoor career. Pac-12 does not sponsor indoor track, the MPSF Championships are the indoor conference championships. Labonté’s mark of 17.42m beat the facility record of 17.11m set in 1994 by Valeyta Althouse of UCLA. Senior Omotayo Talabi took fifth place in the competition with a toss of 50-8.25 (15.45m). It is the fourth time Talabi has earned all-conference accolades in her career. In the women's shot put at the Pac-10/12 Champs, UA has had at least 2 women earn all-conference honors each year since 2007.
“I felt really good, actually,” Labonté said. “I’ve been having some problems with my hamstring and I haven’t been throwing for two weeks so being here and getting the title is really great. I was hoping to get first today so getting that was awesome. (On being first to ever win 4 conference titles) It’s really big, I was hoping to get four indoor titles and four outdoor titles at the conference championships since my freshman year, so to do that is just awesome.”
Redshirt freshman Jordan Young began the day with the men’s hammer throw competition where he took third place overall. Young is only the second freshman in program history to earn all-conference accolades in the event. His toss of 220-0 (67.07m) was the No. 2 toss of his career and was good for six points towards the men’s total. It is the sixth-straight year a Wildcat has earned all-conference honors in the men’s hammer throw. Young and redshirt freshman Aaron Castle both earned all-conference honors in the men’s shot put. Castle earned a runner-up finish with a toss of 60-3 (18.36m) while Young took third place once again, throwing 57-10.5 (17.64m), a personal-best mark.
“All year, shot put has been a struggle,” Young said. “To find my balance, when to hit the ball, and finally, these last couple weeks it’s been coming together at practice. Today, I was feeling it and it was great, it’s finally coming together. Hammer throw was awesome, I was competing against some phenomenal hammer throwers that really pushed me. I was close to my personal best and I worked hard and came away with third against two other good athletes so I can’t complain.”
Redshirt junior Elvin Kibet had a time of 34:35.33 in the 10,000-meter race, finishing in third place overall. It is the second time in Kibet’s career she has earned all-conference accolades in the 10K. It is the fifth-straight year Arizona has had a Wildcat earn all-conference honors in the event. She will return to action on Sunday at 3:55 p.m. for the 5,000-meter race. In the final of the women’s steeplechase, junior Clea Formaz clocked a time of 10:38.11 and took sixth place overall. It is the third-straight year that Formaz has earned All-Pac-12 accolades in the event.
In the men’s long jump, freshman Avery Mickens and redshirt senior Nick Ross both earned all-conference honors. Mickens took third place with a jump of 24-7.75 (7.51m, +3.0 wind). Ross finished with a mark of 24-3.5 (7.40m, +1.0 wind) and took seventh place. It is the first time Arizona has had two athletes earn all-conference honors in the men’s long jump since 2009. It is the second time in Ross’ career that he has been All-Pac-12 in the long jump. Senior Amber Passalaqua earned All-Pac-12 accolades in the women’s long jump with a mark of 19-1.25 (5.82m). She finished in eighth place overall and added one point to the women’s total. It is the first time since 2008 that a Wildcat has been an all-conference honoree in the women’s long jump. Passalaqua also took third place in the heptathlon last weekend and scored six points for the Wildcats.
Senior Lawi Lalang automatically qualified for the final of the men’s 1,500-meter race after his time of 3:47.77 in the preliminary round. That time was good for first place in heat three and third place overall. The final is set for Sunday at 1:30 p.m. In the women’s 1,500-meter race, sophomore Kate Penney had a time of 4:24.14, good for second place in heat three and second place overall. She automatically qualified for the final on Sunday at 1:20 p.m.
Senior Shapri Romero won heat two of the women’s 400-meter sprint with a time of 52.51. That time was the second-fastest qualifying time and was good for an automatic qualifying spot in the final on Sunday at 2:05 p.m. Romero also ran the 200-meter sprint and had a time of 23.74 (-0.2 wind), good for fourth place in the preliminary round. The final will take place on Sunday at 3:35 p.m. In the women’s 100-meter hurdles, sophomore Traci-Lynn Hicks clocked a time of 14.01 (-1.0 wind) and took eighth place overall. She will advance to the final on Sunday at 1:45 p.m. Freshman Miles Parish posted a time of 47.34 in the men’s 400 meters and finished sixth overall in the preliminary round. That time was good for a spot in Sunday’s final at 2:15 p.m.
In the women’s 400-meter hurdles, sophomores Nnenya Hailey and Morgan Struble advanced to Sunday’s final at 3:10 p.m. Struble clocked the fourth-best time in the preliminary round at 59.08. Hailey had a time of 59.58 and qualified for the final despite hit the second-to-last hurdle and nearly falling down. That time by Hailey was sixth in the preliminaries.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat men’s and women’s track and field, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and follow @ArizonaTrack on Twitter. Live results are available at flashresults.com.