Day three of the Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships wrapped up, the UTA men’s and women’s track & field team are riding high. Two Mavericks topped the leaderboards in their respective events and multiple runners are in the finals of their event, as the tournament heads into the last day of competition.
In the men’s contests, sophomore Emil Blomberg and junior Bozidar Antunovic won their events in the 3000 meters steeplechase and shot put respectively. Blomberg toppled the steeplechase with a time of 9:10.49 and Antunovic threw a distance of 18.95m to win his event outright.
Head coach John Sauerhage said he expected Blomberg and Antunovic to do well in their events.
“Emil ran a smart race,” Sauerhage said. “He sat on the leader and overcame him in the last lap to win it all. Bozidar is coming off a great indoor season and wanted to get off to a slow start, and he came home with the gold medal, so that’s all we can ask of him.”
The women’s competition proved to be just as successful, as senior Shannon Reynolds and sophomore Ashley Burris won their heats in the women’s 100m dash and 400m hurdles.
Senior Jennifer Brown had a strong showing for the Mavericks in the third day of competition, winning the women’s long jump with a distance of 5.94m to top the leaderboard.
Sauerhage said despite her up-and-down season, Brown stepped up to the plate and performed well.
“She had a rocky career with hamstring and leg injuries, but she came out like a champion,” Sauerhage said. “If we’re going to be conference champions, then we need a hero. She’s one of our prime candidates to do that.
The night’s schedule of events was highlighted by the men’s and women’s 10K run finals. UTA had two men and one women representing the school.
Freshman Gabriela Alfonso placed fifth overall with a time of 37:35.00 minutes and said that her preparation before the run helped her keep a steady pace.
“I just decided two weeks ago that I was going to run this race, so it’s a new experience,” Alfonso said. “It was hard, but fun at the same time.”
Alfonso, originally from Venezuela, said the run will help her continue to get better.
“It was a learning experience for me,” Alfonso said. “Maybe I’ll take it more seriously the next time, and try really hard and just do my best, that’s all I can hope for.”
Senior Cody Widener and freshman Virgilio Martinez represented the men’s side in the 10K final. Widener was in the middle of the pack at the beginning of the race, and fought for first place at one point, almost overtaking eventual winner, senior Barry Britt from Idaho University.
Widener said his mindset before the race was to keep a steady pace throughout and wanted to keep up with the top of the pack.
“It’s a pretty tactical race,” Widener said. “Everybody is starting out slow because it’s the championships, but the key is to keep your eyes up and when the lead pack breaks, or else, it’s going to be a long race out there by yourself.”
Widener said having his teammate Martinez in the race helped his confidence in preparation for the race.
“Most of the time, I’m the only person in these type of races,” Widener said. “Having Virgilio there gave me a mental boost and helped keep me focused.
Now, the attention turns to Saturday in the last day of competition.
Sauerhage said that he’s optimistic about his team performing well, and hopes that they do well enough to bring both, the indoor and outdoor championships, home to UTA.
“The people we have are competitors,” Sauerhage said. “We have a bunch of kids in the finals of their events and they seem to perform better when the stakes are at their biggest. So, I’m expecting a good outcome for both the men and women on our way to a conference championship.”