May 3, 2008
Front Range Invitational complete results | Arkansas Twilight complete results
LARAMIE, Wyo. - Brian Bedard holds a team meeting after every track meet to tell his athletes about their accomplishments in relation to school history and qualifying for postseason. On Saturday after the first annual Front Range Invitational, the Colorado State head coach needed 20 minutes.
Battling adverse weather and altitude at the Louis Madrid Sports Complex, the Rams captured the women's team title, took second in the men's competition, and established a host of NCAA regional-qualifying marks along the way. The outstanding team effort, against regional rivals Colorado, Wyoming, Air Force and Northern Colorado, came after a smaller contingent had set the tone for the weekend Friday night at the Arkansas Twilight meet in Fayetteville, Ark.
"It was nice to see the athletes peaking at the right time," said Bedard, whose team held its final tune-up before the all-important Mountain West Conference meet in two weeks. "It's a good momentum builder. We're really happy with the meet."
The happiest athlete Saturday may have been Niomi Ridge, who hit an NCAA regional mark in the high jump with a leap of 5 feet, 10.75 inches. That effort also matched Liz Toman's 2000 school record.
"She actually had some pretty good attempts at 6 feet, which would've been an Olympic Trials B standard," Bedard said, referring to Ridge.
Ryan Friese also qualified for the NCAA regional by winning the 800 meters in 1 minute, 50.38 seconds. But Bedard was most impressed that Friese overcame Laramie's altitude.
"He did it at 7,000 feet, which is really difficult to do in a middle-distance event," Bedard said. "That's extremely hard."
In fact, according the NCAA altitude conversion charts, Friese's time Saturday was the equivalent of a 1:48.9 at sea level. Once Bedard knew the weather wouldn't be a factor Saturday, his chief concern shifted to the likelihood the altitude would affect his athletes facing longer races. But that group wound up giving the Rams more regional qualifying marks Saturday than any other section of the team.
"I was pretty concerned about our middle-distance/distance runners running at 7,000 feet up there, which is really difficult," Bedard said. "But they didn't care about that. It's kind of nice that they didn't listen to their head coach very much and just went out and did what they needed to do and qualified anyway."
Other notable performances Saturday:
Marissa Saunders won the 800 meters (2:16.34) and earned a regional-qualifying time and personal best in winning the 1,500 meters (4:37.05).
Freshman Jake Keyser established a regional-qualifying time in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (9:30.10). With an altitude conversion, his time was 9:05.00.
Alex Godell threw a season best and regional-qualifying distance (205-00) in winning the hammer throw.
Jason Schutz won the discus (193-03) and finished second to Godell in the hammer (195-10) en route to earning the meet's award for the most outstanding male field-event athlete.
All told over the weekend, the Rams had a pair of school records, four athletes establish new NCAA regional-qualifying marks, several improve on existing regional marks, and a collection of personal bests too lengthy to list.
"We weren't necessarily trying to win it," Bedard said. "We were just doing what was in the best interest of our team in setting ourselves up for the conference meet."
MORANO BREAKS OWN SCHOOL RECORD AT ARKANSAS TWILIGHT: On Friday night at the Arkansas Twilight meet in Fayetteville, Ark., Drew Morano broke his own, three-week-old school record in the 400 meters with a time of 45.65.
"That's one of the top times in the country right now," Bedard said.
Morano (45.91), part of a small group of Rams in Arkansas, initially broke his own CSU record at the Sun Angel Classic in Arizona April 12. In program history, he now owns the top three times in that event.
Meanwhile, Janay DeLoach set a season best in winning the long jump (20-10.0), and finished third in the 100-meter dash (11.91). Nigel Joseph improved on his previous NCAA regional-qualifying mark by finishing sixth in the 400-meter hurdles (52.08). And, Tanesha Johnson was second in the triple jump (39-6.5).
In addition to elite athletes from the University of Arkansas, the meet included representatives from Iowa State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Utah, among others. Bedard had no second thoughts about splitting his team for the weekend.
"I still think it was in the best interest of the athletes we sent out there, and it was well worth it, based on the performances we saw out there. I wouldn't change my decision."
Now, the Rams return to Fort Collins, where they'll begin final preparations for their bid at a Mountain West Conference title. Those championships are May 15-17 in Fort Worth, Texas.
FRONT RANGE INVITATIONAL, FINAL TEAM SCORES
1. Air Force 202
2. Colorado State 148
3. Wyoming 121
4. Colorado 58
5. Northern Colorado 50
1. Colorado State 183
2. Wyoming 166
3. Air Force 85
4. Northern Colorado 57
5. Colorado 43