Men’s 4x400 meter relay captures RMAC title to lead the way for the Mountain Lions

By Track and Field Staff published May 11, 2012

Gunnison, CO: Like a postal carrier, the track & field team competes in all kinds of weather. During their three days at the RMAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Gunnison, Colorado, the Mountain Lions saw rain, snow, high winds, sunny skies, freezing temperatures and lastly in the 70's.
Despite the schedule changes due to the weather as well as competing directly in the middle of finals week, the UCCS tracksters came away with 15 all-RMAC performances, five school records and six NCAA II Track & Field National Championship provisional qualifying marks.
The mountain lion track teams were led at the RMAC championships by an exceptional effort in the men's 4x400 meter relay, where the team of Jonathan Wright, Travis Whitman, Marc Hensley and Alan Ford not only collected there first ever conference championship, but the win also marked the first ever outdoor conference relay title won at UCCS. UCCS had previously won the indoor men's 4x400 meter relay title in 2010 but had narrowly missed winning the outdoor title last year finishing runner up to Adams State by less than a second. Their mark of 3:13.67 was not only a school record, but also an NCAA Division II provisional national qualifying mark.
They had to work hard for their win though. Conference rival Nebraska Kearney battled valiantly on all four relay legs pushing anchor runner Alan Ford all the way to the tape where a photo finish was required in order to separate the teams. If you have ever had to wait anxiously to find out the result of an exam or TV show, imagine that feeling times 100, and you are still not even close to the apprehensive mood in the Mountain Lion camp as they waited to hear the official result. When it came, the exhausted foursome was met with rapturous celebration from their teammates and coaches who had a large role to play in cheering the team on during the race. The difference between the two teams...0.01 of a second.
Two members of that quartet also scored points individually in the men's 400 meters. Jonathan Wright set a new school record and national qualifying mark of 47.57 to take second place and first team all RMAC honors. Travis Whitman took seventh in the event just missing a third team all-RMAC selection. The pair joined Chad Liscar and TJ Frison to combine for another relay school record in the men's 4x100m relay. Their time of 41.57 took fourth in the most competitive 4x100 meter relay final in the RMAC in the last five years.
The men's and women's 800 meter events are always hotly contested in the RMAC, and this year was no different. Alexa Urban and Amber McAfee repeated the results of the men's 400 meter by also finishing second and seventh respectively. The comparison doesn't end there though. Urban, like Jonathan Wright, also set a school record and achieved a national qualifying mark in her event, lowering her lifetime best to 2:13.89 and becoming a first team all-RMAC selection. "Urban and McAfee also teamed up with Emily Weeks and Jessica Todd place fourth in the women's 4x400 meter relay in a season-best time of 3:58.76."
 
The men's 800 meter field included eight of the top 20 in the whole of NCAA Division II this year and that meant fast times were around the corner. Anthony Davis, who came into the race off the back of a lifetime best in the 400 meter the week before, went one better, not only taking third in the race but also hitting a national qualifying mark and moving to number 12 on the national list. His new lifetime best of 1:51.25 should be good enough to advance to the NCAA Championships in Pueblo in two weeks, but he will have to wait until next Monday to find out if he makes the field.
Davis was not the only UCCS runner to receive all-RMAC honors in the event. Freshman Kyle McCloskey, running in his first ever RMAC 800 meter championship, announced his arrival in the conference by taking sixth overall and also setting a national qualifying mark. McCloskey's time of 1:51.80 puts him 25th on the national list and marked a hugely successful year for the freshman from Manitou Springs. McCloskey came to UCCS as a walk-on student athlete with a best of 2:02 in the 800m and finished his year as one of the top 25 student athletes in the country.
Highlighting the distance races were junior Mike English and sophomore Ryan Derrick.  English finished an outstanding eighth in the all-American packed field of 34 men competing in the 5000 meters.  English's time of 14:40.75 was a personal best and only a second off of the number two performance on the UCCS all-time list and one spot in front of former NCAA II Champion Moses Tum.  Luke Dakin also recorded a personal best of 15:21.00 with a tough effort. Also with an impressive performance was Ryan Derrick's seventh place finish in the 3000 meter steeplechase against a field of all-Americans as well. It was only Derrick's fourth steeplechase of his career, but he held his own finishing in a close group that barely separated third from seventh place. Also running well was Veronica Sandoval finishing ninth in the women's 5000 meters out of 30 competitors. Sarah Treese also recorded a personal best in the race and both women will carry positive momentum into the off-season as they prepare for the cross country season.
Brien Hopkins finished runner-up in the decathlon to lead the UCCS multi-event athletes in Gunnison. In typical Hopkins-fashion, he used strong day two performances to bump up three places from his day one standing. Horrendous weather conditions made every event difficult on Sunday, especially the pole vault, which is one of Hopkins' strongest events. Despite this, he recorded a personal best in the discus, posted solid marks in the hurdles and javelin, and ran strong in the 1500 meter run, which was held in gale-force winds, freezing temperatures, and blowing snow. The meet was also the coming out party for freshman Zach Wood, who earned All-RMAC honors with a fifth place finish in the decathlon. Wood recorded personal bests in the 100 meters, 400 meters, and shot put on day one to set himself up for a strong second day. Weather conditions aside, Wood hit near-season bests in all of his second day events to close out his first conference decathlon. Wood added another All-RMAC feather to his cap when he placed sixth in the open javelin Tuesday morning. RMAC multi-event enthusiasts: you heard it here first, remember the name Zach Wood. He is primed to become a force in the conference in the coming years.

The meet saw the end to the brilliant career of senior Brien Hopkins. With his second place finish in the decathlon, Hopkins became the first conference athlete to be named All-RMAC four times in the indoor heptathlon and four times in the outdoor decathlon. In fact, only twice did he finish out of the top three place winners. Add that to his fifth place finish in the pole vault at the 2009 outdoor championships, and Hopkins finished his career with nine All-RMAC honors. Hopkins was also a national qualifier in 2011 in the indoor heptathlon. In addition to the decathlon, Hopkins competed in the javelin, finishing in seventh place and also the pole vault on Tuesday. When the dust finally settled on his four years, Hopkins had competed in an incredible 79 events at the RMAC championships, which is a conference record. He leaves UCCS in the school's top five lists in five different indoor events and eight outdoor events, as well as the school record in the decathlon. In a grueling event like the decathlon, staying healthy and showing consistency year in and year out is a rarity. To also compete at a high level is even more remarkable. Hopkins' positive attitude and infectious work ethic will surely be missed next season.

Lauren Roberts improved upon her sixth place indoor pentathlon finish with a third place finish in the outdoor heptathlon. Her score of 4349 points was just 51 points shy of the national qualifying standard. Roberts hit season bests in the shot put and high jump and was just off bests in the 100 meter hurdles, 200 meters and long jump to improve her total point score by over 200 points from her first heptathlon, held almost three weeks ago. Seniors Jess Luna and Alli Watson closed out their careers with strong efforts in the heptathlon as well. Despite injury plagued seasons, Luna and Watson both remained committed to the team and closed out their careers in fine fashion.

Despite limited practice opportunities during the outdoor season due to volleyball commitments and back injuries, Erika Cushnie proved she is always ready to high jump when the conference meet is on the line. Cushnie, after shaking off a first attempt miss at 1.50 meters, cleared the next four bars on first attempts before just three tries at 1.70 meters, which would have been a national qualifying mark. Her impressive performance of 1.65 meters was good enough for fourth place and is just two centimeters off her lifetime best. In the women's pole vault, Alex Colvin finished runner-up amidst a strong field. The top three finishers all cleared 3.56 meters, so the event came down to the fewest number of misses. Still tied, Colvin and Kearney freshman Courtney Fetger were forced to enter a jump-off to decide the winner. After a back-and-forth battle, Fetger finally cleared the bar to be named champion. Colvin's earlier season best of 3.67 meters sits tied for 16th in the country. In the men's long jump, freshman TJ Frison closed out his strong season by earning All-RMAC honors in the long jump. In rain, snow, and windy conditions, his mark of 6.65 meters was good for fifth place. Chelsie Overocker also placed eighth in the triple jump (11.15 meters) to close out the field event scorers for the Mountain Lions.  
Next up for the Mountain Lions will be the Colorado School of Mines Last Chance Meet on Sunday, may 13th. After the dust settles this weekend, UCCS will find out which provisional national qualifiers will be accepted into the NCAA II Track and Field Championships hosted in Pueblo, Colorado May 24th-26th.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Brien HopkinsBrien HopkinsJumps/Multi'sFr
Brien HopkinsBrien HopkinsJumps/Multi'sJr
Brien HopkinsBrien HopkinsJumps/Multi'sSo
Brien HopkinsBrien HopkinsJumps/Multi'sSr
Mike EnglishMike EnglishDistanceSr.
Mike EnglishMike EnglishDistanceFr
Mike EnglishMike EnglishDistanceSo
Mike EnglishMike EnglishFr
Mike EnglishMike EnglishSr.
Mike EnglishMike EnglishDistanceJr
Mike EnglishMike EnglishJr
Mike EnglishMike EnglishSo
Luke Dakin Luke Dakin Distance Jr
Luke Dakin Luke Dakin Distance Fr
Luke Dakin Luke Dakin Distance Fr
Luke Dakin Luke Dakin Distance So
Luke DakinLuke DakinJr.
Luke DakinLuke DakinFr
Luke DakinLuke DakinFr
Luke DakinLuke DakinSo
Alan Ford Alan Ford SprintsJr
Alan Ford Alan Ford SprintsSo
Alan Ford Alan Ford SprintsFr
Alan Ford Alan Ford SprintsSr
Emily WeeksEmily WeeksSprints, Jumps, and Multis
Emily WeeksEmily WeeksSprints, Jumps, and Multis
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