It’s safe to say it’s been a banner sophomore year for Utah State’s Rachel Orr.
Last fall, she was a starting outside hitter for an Aggie volleyball team that won the Western Athletic Conference regular season title. Orr, a first-team all-league volleyball player, can now call herself a WAC track and field champion.
The Thatcher, Ariz., native reigned supreme in the high jump on Day 3 of the four-day WAC Outdoor Championships Friday in Arlington, Texas.
Orr, a four-time prep state titlist in the high jump, cleared a collegiate career-best 5 feet, 9.25 inches on her third and final attempt. Had Orr not been successful on that attempt, she would have slipped to second place.
“Well, the thing that’s nice about it is what a great kid she is,” USU head coach Gregg Gensel said. “All of those girls that are high jumping (for USU) are great young ladies, and Rachel, I really feel like she’s just coming into her own in the high jump and figuring out what to do.”
Orr, who moved to fourth place in the USU record books, highlighted a relatively good day for the Aggies. The Aggie men are currently tied for third place with 44 points, while USU is in the fifth position with 32 points on the women’s side.
Texas-Arlington has a 76-56 lead over second-place Idaho in the men’s competition, while Texas State is 26 points head of Idaho on the women’s side.
“I’m really proud of the way my entire men’s team went through the day because we had a lot of guys that made finals that we weren’t counting on,” Gensel said. “... Everyone did great and I’m proud of them.”
USU’s men picked up some big points in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, where Eric Shellhorn, Jacob Barton and David Cluff placed second, third and fourth, respectively. Shellhorn crossed the line in 9 minutes, 11.83 seconds, and 15 minutes later qualified for the final of the 1,500, which garnered the praise of Gensel.
The Aggies also received a silver-medal performance from Kyle McKenna in the 10,000. McKenna clocked in at 31:52, while teammate Kade Jensen placed fourth.
Also faring well for the USU men were Michael Cardinal and Bryce Hall in the shot put, and both athletes had season-best marks. Cardinal finished third (55-11.25), while Hall also eclipsed the 55-foot barrier and placed fifth.
Placing fifth for the Aggie women was Keeley Eldredge in the hammer with her heave of 182-7.
Another USU athlete who shined was Will Henry in his qualifying heat of the 100. Henry qualified in the third spot with a time of 10.42, which ranked fourth in USU history.
USU’s Chari Hawkins was in good shape to win the heptathlon, which took place on Wednesday and Thursday. However, the school record-holder in the event fouled on all three of her attempts in the sixth of seven events, the javelin, and thus didn’t receive any points.
As a result, Hawkins ended up placing fifth with 4,990 points.
“It’s hard to be disappointed in someone that works so hard and has great success,” Gensel said. “You know, sometimes people are off a little, but I don’t want to overlook the things that she did. I mean, Chari set a school record in the high jump, she PRed in other events, including the hurdles.”
Gensel said Hawkins was on track to score at least 5,600 points, which likely would have put her in the top 10 nationally. The redshirt sophomore won the high jump and broke her own school record with a clearance of 5-11.25, and she also won the 100 hurdles with an impressive time of 13.82.
Hawkins is currently ranked 14th nationally in the heptathlon (5,441 points), and “unless something changes drastically in the next day,” Gensel said, will qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The top 24 heptathletes go to nationals.