CLAREMONT, Calif. -- Last week it was the throwers. Next week it just might be the multi-eventers. But today, at the 25th Annual Pomona-Pitzer Invitational, it was the Cougar sprinters who took center stage and enjoyed their day in the spotlight.
Junior All-American Zachary Keene led the way for the Cougars speedsters, putting together arguably the best-ever regular-season meet in his collegiate career. Keene was the undisputed sprint champion of the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational, winning both the 100- and 200-meter dashes with season-best times. In fact, his winning effort in the 200 – a 21.19 – was a personal-best and the seventh-best mark in Azusa Pacific history. Keene grabbed the early and as he came out of the turn he pulled away from the field, beating his nearest competitor by .43 of a second.
Earlier in the meet he won the 100 with a windy 10.58, holding off Jordan Taylor of Cal State Bakersfield who was second with a 10.70. For Keene, it was his first 100 of the season, and the effort bodes well for a man who is trying to become the third Cougar ever to win the NAIA 100- and 200-meter national championships later this year.
Keene opened the meet by anchoring the Cougars’ 4x100-meter relay to a season-best 41.86.
On the women’s side of the sprints, Cougar senior Mandy Ross, an All-American as well, finished second in both the 100- and 200-meters, and in keeping in line with her individual performances she anchored the Cougars’ 4x100 relay to a second-place showing with a 47.46, teaming with Anita Fung, Breanna Leslie and Tiffeny Parker to clock the fourth-fastest relay in Azusa Pacific history.
Ross recorded a very fine early-season 12.11 in her first 100 of the outdoor season. She then ran a 24.76 in the 200.
While Keene and Ross were clearly the stars of the meet, they weren’t the only Cougars to shine on the track. Sophomore Poppy Lawman completed a fantastic week of racing by narrowly finishing second in the women’s 800-meters with a season-best time of 2:10.63. Canadian high school phenom Jenna Westaway edged Lawman by .02 of a second. The day before Lawman ran a 4:30.22 in the 1500 meters at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee/Rafer Johnson Invitational at UCLA. In her first 1500 of the season, Lawman posted a time less than 2 seconds off her personal-best.
In the men’s 800 meters at Pomona, senior Montrail Brooks blazed a personal-best 1:53.67, finishing sixth in the 82-man field with a time just off the NAIA qualifying standard.
All-American Staphon Arnold led Azusa Pacific’s showing in the field events, finishing second in the men’s high jump with a clearance of 6’ 9 3/4”, easily qualifying for the NAIA outdoors in his first competition of the year.
Back at UCLA on Friday, Lawman’s performance was one of just several excellent times posted by Azusa Pacific distance runners. NAIA champion Lauren Jimison recorded the second-fasted 5000-meter run in Azusa Pacific history with a 16:38.91, trailing event winner Danielle Tauro of Michigan by 6 seconds.
Senior Abednego Magut finished second in the men’s 1500-meters with an NAIA-qualifying 3:51.87.
Overall for the weekend, Azusa Pacific punched a dozen more entries for NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championship Meet later this spring in Marion, Ind.
Azusa Pacific hosts a trio of meets this week, beginning with the Mt. SAC Relays and California Invitational Heptathlon and Decathlon on Wednesday and Thursday (April 13-14), followed by the Bryan Clay Invitational on Friday (April 15).