Event: Big West Conference Championships
Where: Anteater Stadium – Irvine, Calif.
When: Friday and Saturday; all day
Who to watch: To say that junior Alex Wilright has been tearing up the track this season would be an understatement.
He has broken his own school record in the 400m hurdles, a 27-year-old record in the open 400m and ran a leg on the record-setting 4x400m relay team. That relay is ranked No. 2 in the conference. He’s ranked No. 1 in both the 400m and the 400m hurdles.
“I want to win conference in the 400m hurdles,” said Wilright. “As a team, I want us to go in and put in the best effort that we can. Hopefully, it will just happen to be enough to win conference.“
Did you know? Last weekend, Wilright suffered his first defeat in the 400m hurdles all season.
The winner? Teammate Thomas Phillips.
“Well, it never feels good to lose,” said Wilright, “but in this situation I was pretty content with my loss. Thomas just ran a smarter race than me. I know that he has been working hard. I would rather have my first loss be to a teammate than anyone else.“
Like Wilright, Phillips is part of the school-record-setting team in the 4x400m relay, and also dipped under the old school records in the 400m hurdles and the 400m.
Preview: The Aggies are having a much stronger campaign this season than they had a year ago, and are understandably expecting a much better result than last year’s seventh-place finish at conference.
“The guys are ready,” said coach Jon Vochatzer. “You can only get beat up once. We are very focused and ready to go. It’ll come down to ourselves, Cal Poly and Northridge. It will be a battle.“
To win, the Aggies are going to have to move around many athletes in an effort to get the most points possible – even if it means not running the conference leader in the 400m.
“I will only be doubling in the 400m hurdles and the 4x400m,” said Wilright. “It will give me the opportunity to concentrate on the hurdles. Look for Thomas to do some big things in the 400m. He’ll be running the 400m instead of hurdling. The point potential is higher now because we can potentially win both events.“
The short hurdlers are expected to be just as dominant as their longer counterparts. Only two athletes in the Big West have gone under 14 seconds this season – Poly Gnepa at 13.99 and Jazz Trice at 13.65. In addition to leading the conference, Trice is ranked at No. 8 in the nation.
The field eventers also have a big chance to impact the team’s score.
“Two big guys – very, very big for us – are pole vaulters Ethan Ostrom and Jamie Feaster,” said Vochatzer. “Right now they are on fire and I think those two will both be in the top four.“
Other top marks in the conference include No. 1 – and national No. 14 – Russ Pfaff in the steeplechase, triple jumpers Ray Green (No. 3), Igor Seriba (No. 5) and Tolu Wusu (No. 6), discus thrower Jake Fuller (No. 3), high jumper Ben Nelson (No. 4) and javelin No. 4 Broc Bennett.
“Last year we had absolutely no idea – not a clue – what was going on,” Vochatzer said. “I think it was a good wakeup call to know what we have to anticipate for this year.
“Right now we just have to put it all together. We have the team to do it. We are loaded. And the guys know it.“
– Alex Wolf-Root