The University of Arizona Wildcat men's and No. 12 women's track and field teams both earned top-five finishes at the 2014 Pac-12 Championships in Pullman, Wash. The meet was held at Washington State's Mooberry Track and Field Complex.
For the sixth-straight year, Oregon's women won the conference championship. They won the competition with 176 points. USC finished in second place with 145 points. Stanford and Arizona State tied for third place with 75 points. Arizona had 74 points in fifth place.
Oregon's men won the conference title for the eighth-straight year, tallying 163.25 points. USC's 99 points were good for second place. Arizona tallied 83 in third place. Arizona State had 80.75 in fourth place and Washington scored 75.25 in fifth place.
"I was very excited about our performance and how we fought all weekend," head coach Fred Harvey said. "We had people step up and really give us an opportunity to be a top-three/five team in the conference. In the Pac-12, if you're one of those teams then you are one of the elite teams in the country. It shows the fight, drive and determination that this team has and going forward we're going to be a team to reckon with, so I'm pretty excited."
Senior Lawi Lalang began the day by winning his third-straight title at the Pac-12 Championships in the men's 1,500-meter race. Lalang clocked a season-best time of 3:36.34 to edge out Edward Cheserek (Oregon, 3:36.50). That time is No. 1 in the country this year and the second-best time of Lalang's career. He is the fourth athlete in conference history win three titles in the men's 1,500-meter race. Volunteer assistant coach Bernard Lagat is one of the other athletes to accomplish that feat. Lalang also broke his own Pac-12 Championship record; he previously set the record of 3:38.53 in 2013. His time is a facility record as well, beating Jim Hill's (Oregon) time of 3:42.29 in 1984.
Lalang also ran the men's 5,000-meter race on Sunday evening and clocked a winning time of 13:41.44. That time is the No. 13 time in the country this year. With that victory, Lalang garnered six conference championships over the course of his career track and field career. He won three in the 1,500 meters, two in the 5K and 1 in the 10K. The only person in conference history with more individual titles than Lalang is UA alumnus Robert Cheseret, who won eight. Lalang and three other athletes have won six.
"I just went into the race with the plan to run (400-meter splits of) 67 seconds and 68 seconds," Lalang said. "Just to make sure I had a time good enough for regionals. That was about it, I just wanted to stay relaxed until about the last four laps. It feels good, I have been training really well and it's nice to get such good rest. Sometimes you train hard and you don't get the results you want so you get disappointed, so this really feels good. (To win six titles) It feels good, especially being a senior and heading to the professional level soon, so getting those titles is really nice. I feel a lot of confidence going into regionals and nationals."
Senior Nick Ross won the men's high jump with a clearance of 7-5.75 (2.28m). Ross did not record a miss in the competition until he attempted three jumps at 7-7.25 (2.32m) but failed to clear the bar. Ross and Dick Fosbury are the only two athletes in conference history to win three high jump titles. Ross also competed in the triple jump before and after he high jumped, taking third place with a mark of 50-10.25 (15.50m, 1.2 wind). It is the second-straight conference championships (Ross redshirted in 2013) that Ross has earned all-conference accolades in the high jump, long jump and triple jump. He is the only athlete in school history to do it even once.
"In high school I used to do all three events a lot," Ross said. "It was something that I was looking forward to coming into the meet but after the long jump yesterday it may be something I regret doing. It took a lot out of me. I was able to pull out a win in the high jump. (On being clean through 2.28m) It's something I have never done before and I'm really proud of because misses count at the elite meets. So, knowing that I can go through 2.28m without missing is something I'm pretty proud of. It means a lot; I won the last ever Pac-10 Championships, won the first Pac-12 Championships and now the third one too, so it's awesome."
In the women's 5K, redshirt junior Elvin Kibet clocked a time of 16:19.14 and finished in third place overall. That is the No. 2 time of Kibet's career and is the second time she has earned all-conference honors in the event. It is also the second-straight year (Kibet redshirted 2013) that Kibet has earned all-conference accolades in both the 5K and 10K.
Freshman Gerhard De Beer took fourth place in the men's discus throw with a personal-best toss of 181-10 (55.43m). That mark is No. 24 in the west region this year. Redshirt freshman Jordan Young threw 172-11 (52.72m) in the discus and took eighth place overall. He is only the second Wildcat in program history to earn all-conference honors in the shot put, discus and hammer throw. In the women's discus competition, senior Julie Labonté earned an eighth-place finish with a toss of 176-6 (53.80m). It is the fourth-straight year that Labonté earned all-conference accolades in both the shot put and discus. Labonté and former Wildcat Alyssa Hasslen are the two women in program history to accomplish that feat.
In the women's 4x100-meter relay, the quartet of senior Tamara Pridgett, senior Shapri Romero, sophomore Traci-Lynn Hicks and senior Germe Poston clocked a time of 44.79 and took third place overall. Romero also ran in the 400-meter final and clocked a time of 52.40, good for a fourth-place finish. She missed a spot on the podium and a top-three finish by .01 seconds. It is the third time Romero has earned all-conference honors in the event. Romero earned all-conference honors for her fifth-place finish in the 200-meter sprint with a time of 23.77 (-1.6 wind). Romero is the first athlete in program history to score in both the 200 meters and 400 meters.
The quartet of sophomore Nnenya Hailey, freshman Jasper Gray, Pridgett and Romero earned a runner-up finish in the final of the women's 4x400-meter relay with a season-best time of 3:36.51. The men's quartet of freshman Miles Parish, junior Mohammad Alhasan, junior Neil Houlihan and freshman Collins Kibet clocked a season-best time of 3:12.54 and finished in fifth place overall.
Freshman Miles Parish earned a third-place finish in the 400-meter sprint with a personal-best time of 46.45. Parish's time is No. 8 in school history and No. 17 in the west region this year. Parish is the third freshman in school history to earn all-conference honors in the event.
In the women's 400-meter hurdles, Hailey clocked a time of 57.40, the No. 2 time of her career, was good for second place. Sophomore Morgan Struble's time of 58.61 was the second-best time of her career as well and was good for a fourth-place finish. It's the first time program history that two athletes have earned all-conference honors in the 400-meter hurdles.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat men's and women's track and field, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and follow @ArizonaTrack on Twitter.
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