FRESNO, Calif. -- Defending champion Azusa Pacific grabbed the early lead in the Golden State Athletic Conference Women’s Track & Field Championship Meet Friday evening, and the Cougars can point directly to freshman Megan VanWinkle as the difference in the day.
Azusa Pacific scored 69 points through 7 event finals staged on day 1 of the 2-day meet hosted by Fresno Pacific University. Biola University is second with 65.3 points, and Westmont is a distant third with 38.3.
It was VanWinkle, out of West College Corner, Ind., who literally jumped Azusa Pacific into first place after a record-setting performance in the long jump. In fact, it was an impressive performance by VanWinkle that broke the conference record by 3 inches and the school record by a half inch with a leap of 19’ 3 1/2."
After fouling on her first attempt of the competition, VanWinkle registered a mark of 18’ 5 1/4" on her second jump. She took the lead and advanced into the finals with a career-best jump of 18’ 11 3/4” on her third jump.
On the opening jump of the finals, Biola’s extraordinary champion Natasha Miller overtook VanWinkle with a GSAC-record jump of 19’ 2”, a mark she equaled on her fifth attempt as well. As the competition wound down, Miller still held the lead heading into VanWinkle’s sixth attempt, the final jump of the competition. Though a rookie, VanWinkle wasn’t fazed by the pressure and produced the finest jump in GSAC history, a leap of 19’ 3 1/4” (5.87m). She broke Rosalyn Grant’s school record that was set 10 years ago and bettered the GSAC standard that was established 5 years ago prior to Miller’ jump earlier in the competition.
Perhaps what made VanWinkle’s performance more remarkable is that the long jump was her third event of the day. Earlier she clocked a personal-best 15.17 in the semifinals of the 100-meter hurdles, a time good enough to put into Saturday’s finals. In addition, she recorded a throw of 96’ 4” in the javelin.
And VanWinkle’s performance wasn’t the only record-setting effort of the day by Azusa Pacific. The Cougars’ 4x800-meter relay quartet of Hanna Steer, Diandra Carstensen, Victoria Martinez, and Poppy Lawman broke the GSAC record with a time of 9:10.17, breaking the former GSAC record, of which Martinez was a part of setting back in 2008, by .04 of a second.
Azusa Pacific’s most prolific offensive output came in the javelin where the Cougars’ collected 23 points, led by sophomore Jordan Robusto’s victory with a personal-best and NAIA-qualifying throw of 166’ 7”, the seventh-best mark in school history. Sophomore Lauren Orris was second with a toss of 157’ 1” and sophomore Cheri Smith was fourth with a personal-best mark of 144’ 7”.
Meet host Fresno Pacific leads the men’s competition with 81 points, while the Cougars are second with 40 points through 7 event finals.
Junior Abednego Magut topped the Cougar men by winning the men’s 10,000 meters with a fine time of 30:30.51. Freshman David Musson was second in the javelin (203’ 5”). Azusa Pacific also finished second in the men’s 4x800-meter relay (8:06.95).
Much of Friday’s competition centered around preliminary races on the track, and Azusa Pacific fared well, setting up what should be an exciting Saturday and the chase for the conference titles for both the men and the women.
Click here to follow Saturday’s competition through real-time results.