Coach Jon Vochatzer knew he was going to return from the season opener in Berkeley with some solid qualifying marks. Specifically, marks for conference.
Sophomore Thomas Phillips and senior Polly Gnepa, had more in mind, as both hurdlers successfully qualified for the NCAA West Regional Championships.
“It felt great [to qualify],” Phillips said. “It takes a lot of stress off me knowing I hit that time. Now I can focus on improving my strength and form.“
Gnepa, a regional qualifier last year, has a personal best in the 110m hurdles of 14.01. He took second in that event in 14.28, just slipping under the regional standard of 14.30.
Phillips qualified for his first regional championships thanks to his dominating win in the 400m hurdles, clocking 52.30. That slashes his personal best by a whopping .72 seconds and moves him to a tie for third on the all-time list.
“I worked a lot during the fall on getting my step pattern down,” Phillips said, “and that helped me stay consistent throughout the race. I also feel a lot stronger this year, due to all the training we put in during the fall.“
Though highlighted by these two regional qualifiers, the Aggies looked strong across the board, as they won four events and had plenty of other top finishes.
“It was a really good, solid meet for us,” Vochatzer said. “It was a great way to kick off the outdoor season. I’m extremely excited about that.“
One athlete who had a standout day was sophomore Igor Seriba, who won both horizontal jumps. He jumped 6.90m in the long jump and 14.63m in the triple jump, just ahead of teammate Tolu Wusu (14.57m) in second.
“A highlight has to be Igor winning both the long jump and triple jump,” Vochatzer said. “Great way to start the season.“
Arguably as impressive in the triple jump was Wusu, who was only .06m behind Seriba. While Seriba had a 1.3 m/s wind at his back on his big jump, Wusu’s was going into a 0.3 m/s headwind.
The Aggies final win came in the high jump, as junior Ben Nelson successfully jumped 2.05. Sophomore Ross Tate tied for second at 1.95.
Junior Jonathan Sees had a huge personal record in the 800m, clocking 1:51.91 to move to No. 9 all-time. While going into the race expecting about a 1:54, Sees proved what type of competitor he is as he took the lead with 200m to go, and was only narrowly out-kicked by a duo of All-Americans from Stanford.
“Jonathan Sees in the 800m, 1:51,” Vochatzer said. “My God. That was a great surprise for us.“
Other top marks included Brock Bennett’s second-place showing in the javelin (53.58m), Jake Fuller finishing third in the discus (47.98m), Ethan Ostrom’s going second in the pole vault (4.80m) and Alex Wilright’s 48.35 in the 400m, only .04 behind the winner.
“I felt like it was a great meet to open up the year with,” Phillips said. “Everyone did well and got a feel for their races.“
ALEX WOLF-ROOT can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.