Several of the Aggies’ top competitors were at the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., but that didn’t prevent Utah State from having a successful home meet.
Middle distance runner Briton Page and a trio of women’s high jumpers highlighted a solid day for the Aggie track and field program at their lone home meet of the season, the two-day Mark Faldmo Invitational, which concluded Saturday at Ralph Maughan Track Stadium.
“As far as the Mark Faldmo goes, we accomplished what we needed to do today and that was to have good, solid performances,” USU head coach Gregg Gensel said. “I mean, across the board (we did well). ... I’ve got to be pleased with the progress the team’s making.”
Arguably USU’s best performance was turned in by Page, and he didn’t even win his event. Page finished second in a very competitive 800-meter field to BYU’s Marcus Dixon, who competed unattached.
Dixon clocked in with a blistering time of 1 minute, 48.71 seconds, while Page, a Centerville native who is only eight months removed from his LDS Church mission to Nicaragua, crossed the line in 1:49.44, which matched his personal record.
Page’s time was very impressive considering Saturday’s cold and sometimes rainy conditions, coupled with Cache Valley’s high altitude. The sophomore has now broken the 1:50 barrier the last three times he has competed in the 800.
“It’s amazing,” Page said. “When I first got back (from my mission) my goal was to run a 1:50 because my time before that was a 1:52 my freshman year. And I’ve done that, so hopefully I can get a 1:48 this season. ... I’ve done (well) a lot faster than I ever hoped and thought I would, so that’s really cool.”
Gensel, who gushed about how coachable Page is, was equally as pleased with high jumpers Jodi Williams, Rachel Orr and Sky View product Mariah Thompson, who once again had several family members and friends in attendance.
Williams won the event with a new PR clearance of 5 feet, 8.75 inches, which will most likely qualify her for the first round of the NCAA Championships. Orr, an Aggie volleyball player who was competing in her first outdoor meet, and Thompson tied for second by clearing 5-7.25.
Those marks also might be good enough to get Orr and Thompson to the first round of nationals.
“It’s really exciting for us because we’ve kind of had a rough start to the year, and so it’s really good to be getting back into form, especially at a meet where the weather wasn’t super great,” Williams said. “... It was good to come out and jump really well.”
A fourth Aggie high jumper, Chari Hawkins, cleared 5-9.25 earlier this week while breaking the school record in the heptathlon, showing just how deep USU is in the event this spring.
“I was really pleased (with the high jumpers), especially considering the weather conditions,” Gensel said. “I mean, I have to think if it was warmer it might have been even better for us, but that didn’t matter. It was really good as it was.”
Thompson was one of three Cache Valley natives who placed second for the Aggies Saturday. Tyler Roberts (Sky View) in the men’s 1,500 and Laycee Elliott (Logan) in the women’s 400 hurdles were the others. Roberts clocked in at 4:01.67, while Elliott crossed the line in 1:01.57.
Elliott’s performance was particularly noteworthy because it was a personal record by a second and the fastest 400 hurdles time by an Aggie this season.
“The thing I love about Laycee is she is such a hard worker and I always love it when the people who work the hardest get the rewards,” Gensel said.
The sophomore has improved immensely in the event since her freshman year, and Saturday’s effort in front of her family and friends was very gratifying.
“I think just really focusing on my technique before and after a hurdle, where I’m pushing into the hurdle and also off of the hurdle, and accelerating between the hurdles,” Elliott said. “... And mainly just having that muscle base that I built last year. Having that really helped me kind of push past that wall that I always hit last year.”
In addition to Williams, eight other Aggies reigned supreme in one of their individual events during the two-day meet.
Placing first for the USU men were Tanner Clark in the javelin (172-5), Kevin Allen in the discus (172-7), Kenneth Hamlett in the triple jump (46-9.5) and Kyle McKenna in the 5,000 (15:07).
The Aggie women received first-place performances from Ashley Robison in the 1,500 (4:53.63), Daphne Jones in the long jump (18-5.25), Cree Taylor in the 100 hurdles (14.52), Melanie Heslop in the hammer (168-8) and standout 1,500 runner Tylee Newman in the 800 (2:12.52).
Jones and Taylor, who sang the national anthem prior to the start of Saturday’s track events, both had season-best performances in those respective events by a considerable margin.
Heslop also fared well in the shot put with a season-best second-place mark of 43-7.75.
“I haven’t seen a lot the results, but I know our men’s triple jumpers did decent compared to where they’ve been throughout the year,” Gensel said. “And like you said, our throwers that were here, Mel (Heslop) especially, all performed pretty well.”
Silas Pimentel, a stellar USU sprinter who is currently redshirting, won the 200 with an impressive PR of 21.13.
A handful of Aggies fared well at the Mt. SAC Relays on Friday. Michael Cardinal placed seventh in the shot put with a heave of 55-6.25, Bryce Hall was ninth in the discus with a mark of 176-2, and Tyler Killpack finished 10th in the 800 with a time of 1:50.68.
Additionally, Alex Litzsinger’s 5,000 time of 17:03.42 ranks third in school history. Litzsinger placed 18th in the event.