Eagles compete in indoor championships

Eagles compete in indoor championships

By Erika Meyer, Sports Writer

The Eastern track and field team will send 19 men and 19 women to compete in the Big Sky Conference Indoor Championships in Pocatello, Idaho Feb. 27-March 1.

 “The Big Sky Indoor Championships are one of the most exciting meets of the whole year,” said women’s head coach Marcia Mecklenburg.

 11 schools and 406 athletes in total are competing. To get a score, athletes need to race into the top eight.

 For the EWU men their biggest competition is Northern Arizona University and Sacramento State, who have won titles since 2007.

 The men’s strongest depth is the weight throw. After placing second a year ago junior Jordan Arakawa leads the Big Sky with a toss of 66-1, senior Zach Nielsen is in third at 63-1 1/4, junior Jon Buchanan 60-7 1/4 and senior Shaun Lemafa ranked eleventh with 57-7 3/4.

 “[Arakawa], [Nielsen] and [Buchanan] are all strong podium candidates and could potentially be a threat for a sweep,” said men’s head coach Stan Kerr. “[Lemafa] could be a wildcard also. That would put four Eastern throwers in the final, which would set a tremendous tone for the meet.”

 Buchanan will also compete in the shot put where he ranks third going into the meet with a toss of 56-3.

 Triple qualifier junior jumper Phil Puccino looks to head onto the podium at the championships as he ranks second in both the long jump and triple jump. He is ranked eighth in the high jump.

 In the long jump, Puccino is five inches behind Sacramento State senior Oleg Ryabokorovka and in the triple jump he sits about eight inches behind Portland State freshman Gifton Okoronkwo.

 “[Puccino] is a great seasoned competitor and is coming off a great outdoor championship,” said Kerr. “He’s highly ranked in the long and triple jumps and should do very well for us.”

 Freshman jumper Trenton Osborn also qualified in the long jump and sits right behind Puccino at 23-5 1/2.

 “[Osborn] can win it all,” said Kerr. “He’s been over 24 feet in his career and could be one of the top freshmen at the meet.”

 For the 60 meter hurdles, senior Steven Warner is going in third with running time of 8:10.

 Junior Nick Stearns will compete in the heptathlon and the pole vault for the Eagles. Stearns is ranked third in the pole vault and fourth in the heptathlon.

 Junior Brad Michael ranks first going into the championship at the 400-meter dash with a running time of 48:12. Michael will be joining senior Collin Green, senior Kramer Green and freshman Austin Upmeyer in the 4×400-meter relay, where they rank third.

 Sophomore Nick Anthony, freshman Steven Bottoms, senior Steven Kutsch and junior Quin Olivas will make up the distance medley relay team and they also sit in third place with a time of 10:17.46. Montana State and Portland State currently have the No. one and No. two spot.

 Sacramento State is the defending champions for women’s side. According to Mecklenburg they are the ones to beat.

“Usually we go into the Big Sky Championship with a goal of placing in the top half,” said Mecklenburg. “That would be a tremendous performance for us right now and that’s what our expectation is.”

 The women’s pole vault looks promising for the Eagles, three time defending champion and record holder senior Keisa Monterola continues to lead the Big Sky. Monterola also made in the wildcard race to participate in the long jump.

 “Pole vault is our money event,” said Mecklenburg. “Anything can happen, but we’re going in there with the mindset to win it and score some solid points.”

 Also in the race for pole vault is freshman Courtney Bray in third, freshman Erin Clark in seventh and sophomore Brita Kintz in 16th.

 Another promising look for the Eagles is the women’s weight throw with senior Vania Tauvela, junior Emily Murillo and junior Olivia Midles making it to the top 10. Sophomore Kayla Loop also made it going in ranked 20th.

 Senior Morena Mannucci ranks fourth going into the triple jump with a leap of 38-1 1/4.

 Freshman Sarah Reiter and Junior Berenice Penaloza will compete in both 3,000-meters and 5,000 meters. Sophomore Catie Arrigoni will join Reiter and Penaloza in the 5,000-meters.

 Freshman Paula Gil-Echevarria will compete in the mile, as she is ranked sixth with a running time of 4:54.78.

 “This is our strongest distance group in many years so it will be fun to see what they can do,” said Mecklenburg.

 Sitting at a mark of 44-6, sophomore Morgan Romey is at the 13th spot.

 Sophomore Jozie Kimes will compete in the high jump and the pentathlon. Kimes is ranked 11th in the pentathlon with a score of 3279 points.

 Freshman Janessa Day, freshman Brook Monson, sophomore Leiran Cornish and senior Angelica Rodriguez will make up the women’s 4×400 meter relay sitting in the No. 10 spot.

 “Our 4×400 relay are coming in fresh and I feel that they’ll run faster than they have this season and score for us,” said Mecklenburg.