Track and field starts strong out of the gate

The University of Alaska Anchorage kicked off the 2011 Track and Field season the first weekend of March, in Las Vegas, Nevada at the UNLV Invitation.

“It will be fun to see this all come together, we had a very strong cross-country season and a lot of new faces on the team” said Head Coach Michael Friess, who added that despite a small team they still are very strong.

The meet, which began on March 5, was a record breaking weekend for the ‘Wolves despite an emotional training week just the week before with the loss of teammate William Ritewiang, who was found dead Feb. 19 at his home.

Photos courtesy of Kelley L. Cox

“The loss of William certainly will effect them, but I am confident they will pull through,” said Head Coach Michael Friess. “It just means we will come together more as a squad.”

The Seawolves broke five school records, earned four separate first place finishes, as well as 18 top-five finishes.

Returning this season after redshirting in 2010 is senior All-American David Registe, who won his event back by jumping over two feet farther than his nearest competitor. The Palmer native took a leap of 25 feet, 10.75 inches, which automatically qualifies Registe for NCAA Championships, May 26-28 in California.

Also returning from a ’10 redshirt season is junior Shaun Ward, who according to Friess is a very strong team leader.

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Ward, an All-American, won his 400-meter hurdle event with a time of 52.82 and was just shy of the current UAA record, which he holds, of 52.45.

Freshman Haleigh Lloyd, of Ladysmith B.C, gave a good first impression by breaking the 400-meter hurdle UAA record with a time of 1:02.37, a record previously set in 2010 by senior Adrienna Everett. Lloyd also broke the 2010, 100-meter hurdle time of 14.89 with a time of 14.62.

Lloyd, also contributed by running with both the 4×100-meter relay team and 4×400-meter hurdle.

Another freshman set records for the men’s side as well.

Gabe Holland won the discuss competition with a toss of 155 feet and eight inches.

The discuss record hadn’t been broken since April of ’07 when Lucas Pedro had a toss of 132 feet and nine inches.

Both women’s relay teams also broke records using their freshman pack, which consists on Lloyd, Susan Bick, and Sasha Halfyard and returning senior and team leader, Everett.

“I think this season we have the potential to have the best women’s team overall ever,” Friess said.

This record breaking season is only to be expected after the Seawolves running season in 2010 after the ‘Wolves broke three GNAC records, set 16 UAA records, and had 14 all-conference finishes, in a program that had only been around six seasons.

The year came to an end with the crowning of four male All-Americans: departed senior Demietrius Preston, returning senior Marko Cheseto, returning sophomore Micah Chelimo, and returning junior Alfred Kangogo.

Chelimo was named the 2010 GNAC Freshman of the Year.

Kangogo is back for the Track season after redshirting cross-country running in the fall.

“He has been running, and training very well,” Friess said.

For the women, departed senior Elisha Harris, returning sophomore Ruth Keino, departed senior Laura Carr, returning senior Hallidie Wilt, and returning junior Miriam Kipng’eno all took home All-American honors last season.

Junior Kelsey Johnson, of Sitka, has had a powerful kickoff to the season.

Johnson’s shot put toss of 29 feet, 8.25 inches pushed her to victory over her competitors. She also finished second in the 200-meter dash, 100-meter hurdles, and high jump.

Following in shop put was freshman Amanda Parker, who finished third.

In Eagle Rock, California on Mar. 11, the ‘Wolves had yet another record-breaking meet. The team was able to qualify five athletes provisionally for NCAA Championships, post six top-five finishes, and set yet another school record.

Freshman Ivy O’Guinn set UAA’s record in the 1500 meters. The Soldotna native finished with a time of 4:33.5, which put her in second for the event.

The record had been set in just May of last year (4:34.34).

O’Guinn, set another school record just days later on Mar. 12 in the 800 meter (2:12.61), which was a time that won her heat.

Keino and Kipng’eno both qualified for the 5000-meter run and went toe to toe in the race with Keino, coming out on top. The teammates finished in 16:59.30 and 17:02.87, respectively.

For the men on Mar. 11, Chelimo and Kangogo both had provisional NCAA marks. Both athletes competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, receiving second and third place honors.

Chelimo is currently the GNAC record holder of the event.

Keino, Kipng’eno, Chelimo and Kangogo join Registe and Johnson who have already either provisionally or automatically qualified for the NCAA’s.

In Northridge, California on Mar. 12, Lloyd beat her own record, in which she set on Mar. 9, with a time of 60.96 in the 400-meter hurdle.

Holland beat his own UAA record as well with a toss of 162-00 in the discus event.

So who will lead the team to a victorious season?

“We have a lot of athletes who lead by example, obviously David (Registe) in his performances, Alfred making a come back from his medical issues in the fall,” Friess said, “Our team isn’t very large but the depth and quality of both talent and character is right there.”

The UAA track and field team will next be in action at the Stanford and San Francisco Invitational meets on Mar. 25-26.