Surprises aplenty: WSU women falter, men shine

May 13, 2012

BOZEMAN, Mont. — It was a surprising finish for the Weber State men’s outdoor track and field team, and a heartbreaking one for the Wildcat women Saturday at the 2012 Big Sky Conference outdoor track and field championships in Bozeman, Mont.

Coach Dan Walker’s men were pegged to finish fifth in the preseason poll, but a solid effort by a couple of seniors, and second-place finishes in both relays, propelled the Wildcats to third place with 100 points. Northern Arizona ran away with the meet rolling up 221 points. Host Montana State was second with 164.

“It was a fabulous day, and a tremendous meet for our group,” said Walker. “We didn’t have a great deal of depth, but we had some excellent performances which shot us up the list.”

On Saturday, the ‘Cats had three individual career bests, two of them which made the WSU all-time top ten list, and a solid showing in both relays.

Tyler McBee led the way, winning the 400-meter intermediate hurdles in a time of 51.90, and ran second in the 110-meter hurdles in a career-best 14.7, which ties him for the fifth best time in WSU history.

He also ran on both relay teams, earning all-conference honors in four different events.

Chris Struckman earned all-conference honors with a third in the 100 meters. Struckman’s time of 10.61 ties him with Jody Marshall for the sixth fastest time in WSU men’s history. He also earned all-conference honors on the 4×100 relay team which finished second in 40.93.

Mike Hardy, who won the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Friday, came back to earn all-conference honors on Saturday in the 1,500 meters with a third-place time of 3:54.23.

Zach Parry finished his career with a third in the hammer throw, earning all-conference honors, with a toss of 187-7.

The 4×400 meter relay team of Christian Barbiero, Dustin Durfee, McBee and Matt White, ran the fifth best time in WSU history with a time of 3:10.36. Barbiero, Durfee and White each earned all-conference honors. Barbiero, White, McBee and Struckman posted a season-best 4X100 time of 40.93.

The day did not start off well for coach Jim Blaisdell’s women, but they regrouped to post some impressive times. In the first event of the afternoon, the 4×100 meter relay, senior Kristin Billings suffered a hamstring injury after taking the first baton handoff. The team did not finish.

Billings, one of the top 100 and 200 meter runners in the Big Sky, was set to run in the finals of both events. She was also a part of the 4×400 meter relay team.

“Kristin’s injury was obviously a tremendous setback for us, not only physically for her, but emotionally for the rest of our team,” said Blaisdell. “She’s been a tremendous worker all four years and was one of our top team leaders. But I was proud of the way everyone picked themselves up and competed the rest of the day. Amber Henry and Sarah Callister each had another outstanding day. This was a special group for me as a coach.”

The Wildcats finished fourth with 97 points. Sacramento State won its fifth straight outdoor title with 173 points. Montana State was second (121.50), with Northern Arizona third (107).

Henry was named the women’s outstanding performer. She set meet records, and stadium records, winning the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10:09.62) on Friday and the 1,500 meters (4:22.26) on Saturday.

Callister put her name in the conference record books, becoming the first women’s athlete in Big Sky history to win both the 10,000 meters and 5,000 meters three straight years. She won Saturday’s 5,000 meters in 17:01.35.

The only other Wildcat to earn all-conference honors on the women’s side was junior Laken Hintze. She finished third in Friday’s 3,000 meter steeplechase, then came back to finish third in the 1,500 meters on Saturday in 4:27.99.

Callister and Henry will likely make the field for the NCAA West First Round Meet, set for May 24-26 in Austin, Texas.