AZUSA, Calif. – In preparation for the upcoming NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championship Meet, Cougar distance coach Preston Grey was just offered amazing flexibility, as asset that goes a long way in winning a national title.
Four different Cougars ran lifetime bests, 3 of which bested the former school record, as Azusa Pacific swept the women’s mile to highlight the “Last Chance Indoor Qualifier” hosted by Azusa Pacific Saturday afternoon.
Reigning NAIA cross country champion Jaime Canterbury added to her list of school records by running a 4:57.28 to win the mile and best NAIA champion Brianna Carstensen’s former school standard 5:02.35 set in 2004. Canterbury now owns the school’s cross country 5K record (17:14) and the 1500-meter mark (4:25.69).
Had Canterbury not won, then sophomore >Jackie Kipwambok would have etched her name into the books with a 4:59.32. And right behind her was All-American >Whitney Jacobsmeyer with a 5:01.12. Not far off was senior All-American >Olivia Richert with a 5:02.75. All 4 performances rank among the top 11 in the NAIA this season with Canterbury’s effort the second best.
“We knew each girl had the ability to break the record, but for a race to live up to this kind of expectation is rather unusual,” said Cougar distance coach Preston Grey. “It was good to see that the effort they’ve put into training and practice pay off like this.”
Azusa Pacific now has at least 2 automatic qualifiers for the NAIA indoors in the mile, 3000 and 5000, and their current season bests in the 4x800 and distance medley relays rate among the best in the NAIA this season. This latest Cougar surge in the mile only strengthens Azusa Pacific’s title aspirations.
“We’re ready to go chase a team title,” added Grey. “The distance program needs to score 40 points at nationals, and if they do then we know we have a shot at the championship.”
In other notable performances, freshman Mandy Ross blazed a 57.11 in the first 400 meters of her collegiate career and automatically qualified for the NAIAs to go along with her 200 qualification of a week ago.
Senior Ruth Wilhelm won both the 20-pound weight throw (51’ 0¾”) and shot put (45’ 5¼”), using a personal record to take the shot.
Junior Mandy Pohja reached the “B” qualification standard in the pole vault (10’ 11¾”).
In the men’s competition, All-American senior James Ferguson continues to dazzle during the indoor campaign, posting a career-best in the shot (58’ 3”), the second-best put in the NAIA this season and the sixth best in Azusa Pacific history.
Freshman Jeff Altizer was the top collegian in the pole vault, finishing third overall with a career-best leap of 14’ 1¼”.
Azusa Pacific’s strength in the hurdles began to publically emerge with junior Cliffton Gay (8.15) and senior David Pichler (8.32) both qualifying in the NAIA 60-meter hurdles with career-best times. Gay’s mark is the third best in the NAIA this season.
Junior Anthony Logan won the 400 meters (48.13), posting a personal-record in the process, an impressive feat this early in the season for last year’s state junior college champion.
After 2 weeks at home, Azusa Pacific takes to the road next Saturday (Feb. 23) to compete in the 12th Annual Rossi Relays at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges in Claremont, Calif. The first event is set for noon.