IRVINE, Calif. -- The gun for the 2011 track & field season sounded for Azusa Pacific today at the first annual Leonard “Blu” Blutreich Invitational at Concordia University, and 45 Cougars took to the track, all them looking to build upon last year’s NAIA national championship seasons.
As far as openers go, it was good day for both the men’s and women’s teams. The Cougar women registered 7 qualifying marks for the NAIA Indoor Championship Meet in Irvine, and the Cougar men had 3 tickets punched for the NAIAs as well.
On the women’s side, NAIA champion Lauren Jimison carried the Cougar banner on the day, putting in an effort that looked more like mid-season form than a season-opener by winning the women’s 5000-meters with a personal record 17:14.79, a half of a second faster than her NAIA winning time of a year ago. The time is even more impressive when considering that the junior was never pressed by any of her other 4 competitors, running away from the field and winning by 55 seconds over the second-place runner.
Evidently freshman Melissa Telon was caught in the Jimison jet stream and posted perhaps the biggest surprise of the day for Azusa Pacific, also posting an NAIA-qualifying effort in the 5000 with an 18:16.83. It’s her first-ever NAIA automatic qualifying time, and it’s the first time she has run the 5000 in her collegiate track & field career.
All-American pentathlete Breanna Leslie qualified in the 60-meter hurdles with a personal-best 9.04, the third-fastest time in Azusa Pacific history. Later in the day, she won the long jump competition with a personal “indoor” best of 17’ 6”, less than 3 inches off the NAIA standard.
As expected, Azusa Pacific’s 4x800-meter (9:22.49) and distance medley (12:18.44) relays easily reach the NAIA qualifying mark for the national championship meet. All-Americans Kayla Carstensen, Victoria Martinez and Poppy Lawman ran legs on both relays.
Senior sprinter Mandy Ross won both the 60- (7.87) and 200-meters (24.91), and registered her name for the NAIA 200 with her performance in that race.
First-year Cougar Kat Luna wasted no time posting her name to the NAIA championship meet list by heaving the 20-pound weight a qualifying distance of 54’ 7 ½”.
The Cougar men were paced by All-American junior Abednego Magut, who along with freshman Wade Meddles, qualified for the NAIA 3000-meters by clocking times of 8:38.38 and 8:38.43, respectively.
Magut and Meddles then paced the Cougars’ distance medley relay to an NAIA-qualifying run of 10:18.95.
A trio of other Cougar men, All-Americans Zachary Keene, Jeff Altizer and Casey Stevick traveled to Seattle this weekend to compete in the UW Invitational in the Dempsey Indoor.
Keene and Stevick, both Washington natives, showed well in their return home. Stevick qualified for the NAIA Indoor Championships by scoring 4,971 points to finish tenth in the 22-man heptathlon field. Keene also finished tenth in the finals of the 60-meters. Altizer also completed in the heptathlon and scored 4,724 points, likely good enough to get him into the NAIA championships.