| March 18, 2018

Track and Field: A Big Sky battle

After a trip to the USA Championships, the Idaho track and field squad runs down the 2018 indoor season with the Big Sky Indoor Championships, beginning Feb. 22.

The Vandals will travel south to Flagstaff, Arizona for the conference championships, which will begin Thursday with the multi-events. The field events are set to be underway 3 p.m. MT Friday and running events at 4 p.m. MT.

Idaho Head Coach Tim Cawley said the indoor season went well on many levels and the team is now heading in the right direction moving toward conference championships.

“We are in a position to do better than we did last year, which is kind of all we had, just keep moving in the right direction, Cawley said. “We still got to go and kind of get it done at the conference meet and like I say, there are fantastic coaches, fantastic athletes, it should be a fun battle.”

While the pressure is on to perform at top-marks, Cawley said this pressure can push the athletes to compete their best and end the season on a high note.

“That’s where a lot of great performances come from is kids trying to rise to the occasion of the new competition, to the excitement of the competition,” Cawley said. “It’s been a good season so let’s see if we can finish strong.”

Sophomore Ben Doucette moves into the conference meet fresh off a trip to the USA Championships, where he was one one-hundredth of a second away from advancing to the next round. As the defending Big Sky 60-meter hurdle champion, Cawley said Doucette is hungry to hold his title.

“There is still a little bit of a chip on his shoulder just missing that next round at USA Championships, so going into the conference championships a little hungry, especially when you’re ranked second going in,” Cawley said.

“He is ranked second going in and then you got a couple other guys right there chipping at his heels. That should be an amazing race to watch at conference. I think that is one where it should be fun to see if Ben can defend his title but at the same time he is going to have a heck of a challenge doing it.”

Doucette is not the only Vandal at the top of the ranks in his event heading into the final meet of the indoor season.

Sophomore Kasin Pendergrass-Anderson sits at the top of the conference in the long jump after a jump of 7.46 meters at the WSU Open.

Sophomore Rechelle Meade also sits atop the ranks in the long jump. Meade kicked off the season with a school record-breaking leap of 6.17 meters, breaking Olympian Angela Whyte’s 15-year-old record of 6.08 meters.

“Rechelle (Meade) obviously, as had a couple injuries here and there throughout the season but I think she is healthy right now and in a good place,” Cawley said. “Hopefully she gets out there, you know, she can go and try to win the title there, she hasn’t done that yet so that would be kind of exciting if she can do that.

Zachary Short sits second in the shot put after throwing a career-best 18.01 meters. He is one of only two throwers to break the 18-meter mark so far this season.

“(Short) has really put a lot of things together, he is a kid that is just very talented, very explosive, very dynamic, very consistent, I mean that is the exciting part,” Cawley said. “He’s got a good shot to place top-three and hold where he is at there in the rankings going in, second. If you get a chance to stay up in that spot, top-three, then you always got a chance to win it.”

Sophomore Kaizer Gillispie has come out in the top of the conference in both the 400-meter and the 200-meter. Gillispie sits at third in the 400 meters and seventh in the 200 meters.

“He is in a great spot, he is in great shape, I think he should get through to finals and if he gets himself in the finals there I think he’s an incredible competitor, we will see what he can do there,” Cawley said.

Sophomore Karina Moreland and junior Kara Story are two athletes with the potential to come out strong in the conference meet, Cawley said.

Moreland moves into the meet with two wins to her name and a third-place spot in the Big Sky ranks. Story holds the fifth-place spot with a time of 9:42.90.

Cawley said overall, he feels his team is strong and well-rounded, ready to compete on all platforms at all levels at the Big Sky Indoor Championships.

“We do have a good, well-rounded team,” Cawley said. “This is going to show a little bit of where we’re (at) and kind of help us reach out for outdoors but I think the team should go out and battle. That is all I’m looking for, is them to go out and compete as hard as they can and just see where, at the end of the day, see how many points we have, see where those scores lie next to the other teams.”

Meredith Spelbring can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @mere0415

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