SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific captured 13 individual conference championships while the posting second-place men’s and women’s team finishes at the Pacific West Conference’s first-ever track & field championships Friday and Saturday at Point Loma Nazarene University.
The Cougars claimed five individual women’s titles, led by Diandra Carstensen’s sweep of the 800 (2:15.60) and 1500 meters (4:38.55). She was followed in each race by freshman teammate Reika Kijima, as the pair accounted for 36 of their team’s 197.5 points in the meet. On the men’s side, Peter Buscheck claimed PacWest titles in both the 3,000 meter steeplechase (9:18.63) and the 5,000 meters (15:12.82). The Cougars also won three of the four throwing events, along with the high jump, as the men’s team claimed eight individual titles.
“We did what we wanted to do, which was to have a really solid group we’re taking back to nationals next week,” Azusa Pacific men’s track & field head coach Kevin Reid said. “With the transition (into NCAA Division II) currently taking place, we’ve planned out a process to make an impact in two years when we have a chance to compete in our first NCAA Division II championship meet, and I think we’re on schedule fort that.”
Grand Canyon won both PacWest team champonships, scoring 302 points in women’s events and 297 points in men’s events. Azusa Pacific’s 197.5-point women’s total was 79 points better than third-place Point Loma, and the Cougar men tallied 230 points, which registered higher than the combined point total of the third-, fourth-, and fifth-place finishing teams.
“I thought we matched up with them (Grand Canyon) at the top level, but the depth they had behind their top guys was really good,” Reid said. “That’s the kind of depth that we’ll need to compete at that next level. Our top guys are competitive and they’ll continue to be there, but our next-tier guys need to be at that level, too. We knew going in that Grand Canyon had that kind of depth, so we just wanted to do our thing and see where the points lined up on the second day.”
Other women’s individual event winners were Breanna Leslie in the high jump, Mareka Clark in the triple jump, and Cheri Smith in the hammer throw. Leslie cleared 5-feet, 6-inches for her high jump title, and Clark jumped 41-feet, 1-inch to match her season-best and win the PacWest triple jump crown. Smith’s winning hammer throw of 167-feet, 2-inches was her career-best, and it beat her nearest competitor by more than six feet.
Other top finishers included Sarah Higgens, who finished second in the steeplechase with a time of 11:14.31, and Megan VanWinkle, who took second in both the long jump (19-feet, 6.75-inches) and high jump (5-feet, 4.25-inches).
Buscheck’s distance double led an impressive performance on the track for Azusa Pacific’s men’s team. Freshman Aaron Potts was the winner in the 1500 meters with a season-best time of 3:52.82, while Slater Ezell led a Cougars’ hurdles contingent to five of the top-eight spots in the 110-meter hurdles and three of the top-five in the 400-meter hurdles. Ezell won the 400 (50.77 prelims and 51.04 finals) and took second in the 110 (14.35).
In field events, LaJuan Moye won the high jump, clearing 6-feet, 6.75-inches, and the trio of Brad Beckwith (discus), David Musson (javelin), and Talaiasi Taueli (shot put) each collected top honors in each of their respective specialties. Beckwith, who threw the discus a career-best 173-feet, 10-inches, was runner-up in both shot put and hammer.
Remontay McClain finished second in the 200 meters (20.77) to go with third-place in the 100 (10.32), and Ryan Phillips added third-place finishes in the 800 and 1500. Three Cougars contributed points with top-eight times in the 10,000 meters, with Zach Ginn (33:33.60)placing fourth while Devin Pierce (33:55.66) and Matt Hoekstra (34:15.67) finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
Zach Speno ran a season-best 9:57.84 in the 3000 meter steeplechase to earn a spot on next week’s national championship squad, which travels to the Chicago suburb of Joliet, Ill., to compete at the National Christian College Athletic Association Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Azusa Pacific’s entries for the 2013 NCCAA Outdoor Championships, which take place May 2-4, will be announced early next week.