For host Azusa Pacific, hopes were materialized in the efforts of Zora Golcevska and Morgan Altizer both of whom not only qualified for the NAIA Indoor Championships in the pentathlon, but they posted scores that rate among the top 5 in the NAIA this season.
Golcevska, a junior transfer out of Santa Monica City College, scored 3,461 points using seasons-bests in the final 2 events –- the long jump (17’ 5 ½”) and 800 meters (2:26.60) -- to tally the NAIA’s second-best point total this season. Altizer, a 5-time All-American including 3 in the pentathlon, registered 3,257 points for the NAIA’s fourth best performance to date. She opened the competition with a near PR in the 60 hurdles (9.53) and closed with a 1-second PR in the 800 (2:28.87).
On the men’s side, walk-on sophomore Devin Wills likely punched his ticket for the NAIA’s with a 514-point PR in the heptathlon, tallying 4,052 points. Wills records personal-bests in 5 of the 7 events of the heptathlon, which included a 7.02 in the 60 meters, a full tenth of a second better than any other 60 he has run. With the likely addition of Wills to the NAIA championship meet roster, Azusa Pacific will now have 3 heptathletes competing in the 16-athlete field at the NAIAs. Wills joins previous Cougar qualifiers David Pichler and Shawn Bolcarovic.
In the open events, James Ferguson continued his steady progress as one of the best 30-pound weight throwers in the NAIA after posting his third PR of the season, a winning heave of 55’ 3½” that is the fourth-best in the NAIA this year.
Sophomore Ruth Wilhelm improved her standing the NAIA women’s shot put with a lifetime best put of 43’ 1 ½”, more than 4 inches better than her previous best.
Meanwhile on the track, Azusa Pacific’s 4 four top distance runners competed in the women’s 4x800-meter relay for the first time this season and easily qualified for the NAIA championships. Cougars Jaime Canterbury, Whitney Jacobsmeyer, Olivia Richert and Kjersti Housman clocked a fine 9:23.97, the NAIA’s third best time this season.
Coming off his record-setting performance at last week’s Tyson Invitational in Arkansas, All-American Aron Rono continued his impressive running with a 14:31.11 in the 5000, easily the best time in the NAIA this season. Rono has now qualified for the NAIAs in 3 different events – the mile, 3000 and 5000 -- all of which he has the potential to win, but not likely all 3 in one weekend’s effort.
In the men’s 800 meters, All-Americans Tony Ramirez (1:53.96) and Caleb Lynch (1:55.61) sandwiched newcomer Jason Zichterman (1:54.56) in the Cougars’ 3-man sweep of the event. All 3 automatically qualified for the NAIA indoors, though Ramirez is likely to focus on the 400 and not the 800 in 2 weeks at Johnson City, Tenn.
Other season improvements were recorded by Lorraine Swaby (58.16 in the women’s 400), Chris Page (49.69 in the men’s 400) and Staphon Arnold (6’ 8” in the men’s high jump).
Azusa Pacific will split its squad this weekend sending about three-fourths of the men’s and women’s teams to Concordia University in Irvine, Calif., for a Friday (Feb. 23) afternoon meet. The rest of the team will compete Saturday (Feb. 24) in the Rossi Relays at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges in Claremont, Calif.