The hard work began in the dog days of summer and came to a conclusion this past weekend as the Weber State track and field programs traveled to Flagstaff, Ariz, to take part in the Big Sky Championships.
The women’s team finished in seventh place with 57 points as the men finished ninth with 42.5 points. The host, Northern Arizona University swept both of the titles in convincing fashion.
This conference meet was the final one for Jim Blaisdell, who is retiring after 33 years at the helm of the Wildcats. During his tenure, the Wildcats won a total of 18 conference titles. But Blaisdell was not the only one who wanted to go out swinging, as senior Taylor Ward had plans of her own.
Ward has had many accomplishments as a team during her very successful career as a Wildcat, but was missing an individual title. Her hard work and patience paid off as she pulled away from the field in the 10,000 meter run to win in a time of 36:56.54. Her 25 second victory was the only individual championship for the Wildcats.
“It’s my first conference championship, so I’m really excited,” Ward said. “Hard work definitely pays off during the season; training and practicing for this day so it feels really good with this accomplishment. The key to a 10K is being consistent and smart, especially at altitude here. It was a really fun race, I enjoyed it and it was good to end on this note as a senior.”
Jamie Stokes gave some needed support as she finished second in the 1500 meter run with a time of 4:37.95 while Ashley Kealamakia finished fourth in the 800 meter dash with a time of 2:12.94. Katherine Wishmeyer ran a personal best 54.94 to finish fifth in the 400 meter dash.
One of the strong points of the Wildcats all season was the progress of all the throwers, and that was shown at full force during the meet. Tiffany Hellstrom placed third in the javelin with a 47.06 meter throw, while Britlie Silvester placed fourth in shot put with a personal best 14.63 meters. Silvester was not finished there as she set a school record in the hammer throw with a mark of 55.92 meters. That mark was good enough to place her sixth in the conference.
Blaisdell was happy with what he saw at the meet and was proud of everything that the team had accomplished since they started practice in the fall.
“This was a very competitive meet and we always want to be in the battle, but sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want,” said WSU head coach Jim Blaisdell. “Our group competed really hard and had some good things happen and they’ve had a great year after winning the title in cross country and finishing second at the indoor meet.”
The men’s team came into the meet hoping to build off the success and improvements that had come early and often during the season. Even though they did not have any athletes that won individual titles, their were some performances that show the future is bright.
The high-flying freshman Anthony Gregory lead the Wildcats with his third place performance in the high jump. His mark of 2.08 meters was good enough to earn him all-conference honors. But it was another freshman who garnered the most points for the Wildcats, as Seth Fortin placed fourth in the 100 meter dash and fifth in the 200 meter dash to earn a total of nine points.
Both Jonathan McUne and Darion Zimmerman placed fourth in their individual events. McUne accomplished that in the 110-meter hurdles, while Zimmerman just missed the podium in the 400-meter dash.
Coach Dan Walker, who has been named as successor to Blaisdell as Director of Track and Field, was pleased with how his young team handled the pressure of the conference meet.
“The meet went about as we thought and I was pleased with our young group,” said WSU head coach Dan Walker. “We’re not satisfied with our finish but they all competed and gained good experience. We took a step closer to being where we want to be.”
The season will continue for a select few athletes that qualified for the NCAA West Regionals on May 29-31 in Fayetteville, Ark.