EWU Off To Strong Start At Big Sky Track and Field Championships - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

EWU Off To Strong Start At Big Sky Track and Field Championships

Jordan Arakawa won the Big Sky Conference crown in men's hammer throw on Friday. (Photo: EWU) Jordan Arakawa won the Big Sky Conference crown in men's hammer throw on Friday. (Photo: EWU)

by EWU Athletics

CHENEY, Wash. -- The Eastern Washington University track and field team put together a number of top performances in front of a home crowd on Friday at the Big Sky Conference Outdoor Championships at Roos Field.

The Eagles ended day three of competition with six all-conference (top-three finish) performances, including two Big Sky titles and ten new all-time best marks.

Through seven scored events, the Eastern men are in second with a total of 39 points while the women are in third with 32.

After placing second in the hammer throw at the two previous Big Sky Conference Championships, senior Jordan Arakawa finally got his coveted title in the hammer throw with a season-best toss of 218-1.

"It was a dream opening to a meet to have your senior captain get things started like that," said head men's coach Stan Kerr. "He had a solid performance from start to finish in the hammer."

On her final throw of her final Big Sky Championships, senior Emma Murillo tossed a 10-foot personal best of 168-0 to win her second-consecutive title in the javelin. She now ranks third in school history with that mark. Murillo will wrap up her last outdoor championships tomorrow when she competes in the discus and hammer throw.

"Emma came up to our head javelin coach Aaron Mettler right before her last throw and asked what it was going to take to win. He said over 51 meters, and that's what she did. She came through and pulled it off." said head women's coach Marcia Mecklenburg. "It was amazing, but that's what Emma does at Big Sky Conference Championships."

Senior Phil Puccino got the day off to strong start when he cleared the high jump bar at 6-11 to place second overall. His personal best entering Friday's competition was 6-9 3/4 -- his new best now ranks him seventh all-time in school history. Puccino then doubled back with a fifth place performance in the long jump, 23-6 3/4. The Tacoma, Wash., native is the favorite in the triple jump which kicks off Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

"After Jordan's performance, our jumps captain Phil put on a stellar performance in the high jump. We had eighteen points and the meet was only an hour or two old, it was a dream start. My hats are off to those two guys for all the contributions to our program," said Kerr. "I would not be surprised to see Phil win the triple jump tomorrow after his two high-level performances today. It will be a battle, but I won't be surprised to see Phil standing on top of that podium."

Trenton Osborn, a sophomore from East Wenatchee, Wash., placed second in the long jump with a personal best of 24-3 to rank ninth all-time. This is Osborn's second all-conference (top-three finish) performance, in addition to his 2015 long jump indoor title.

"A phenomenal performance from Trenton," said Kerr. "He sustained at such a high level throughout the whole competition, and he's only a sophomore."

Eastern also put together a solid show in the 10,000 Friday evening, led by sophomore Sarah Reiter who placed second overall with a time of 36:16.55. Berenice Penaloza (36:45.11) and Vince Hamilton (31:34.11) both placed sixth, scoring important points for each team.

"It was a very solid race from start to finish for Sarah, she hung in there. When people would come up and try to pass her, she would go with them. She was not giving up that second-place spot. I'm pleased about that," said Mecklenburg. "Berenice is such a racer. She hung with the front runners for quite a while and she almost overtook someone right at the line. I'm really happy for her that she was able to accomplish a scoring position."

"Vince has been our broken warrior all season long," said Kerr. "He pieced together a nice race today. Tactically, he did exactly what he needed to do to score. He didn't go too nuts at the start of the race -- he was steady and strong from start to finish. I am proud of what he was able to do today with his history of injuries."

Paula Gil-Echevarria ran a gutsy steeplechase race and crossed the finish line in 10:28.17 to place third overall -- earning the first outdoor all-conference honor of her young career. Katie Mahoney finished ninth (11:08.90) followed by Catie Arrigoni in 13th (11:20.26).

"Paula was tough. She's fearless and came through with a pretty good time. She always has a great mentality at the Big Sky Championships," said Mecklenburg.

Jeremy VanAssche finished second overall in the prelims of the 100 with a time of 10.43 to qualify for finals. He will also compete in the finals of the 200 after running a time of 21.27 to rank fifth all-time at Eastern. The freshman set the school record in the 100 earlier this season (10.42) and is the favorite entering the competition.

"Two remarkable performances from a freshman who has just been on fire from the day he rolled into this university," said Kerr. "He has to work his tail off in this conference and he's happy to do so. He lives for the competition that this conference provides. He's put himself into a position to become a champion tomorrow in the 100."

Senior Brad Michael ran a season-best 47.86 in the 400-meter prelims to qualify for Saturday's finals. Michael has finished third in that event at the 2013 and 2012 outdoor championships.

"I'm very, very proud of our sprints captain," said Kerr. "He's coming off of some injuries that have hampered him all season, he looked really good. Tomorrow will be a dandy race for the people who love the one-lappers. It will be a crowd pleaser."

Also competing in the 400-meter finals on Saturday is sophomore Brooke Monson who ran an all-time best of 55.57 to rank second in school history. Monson narrowly missed the finals of the 200 after running another lifetime best of 24.55 to rank seventh all-time.

"We haven't had a 400 runner in the finals in a very long time. Stan has done an incredible job with that crew," said Mecklenburg. "Brooke has accomplished so much this season -- she's really pulling it together at the right time. It will be fun to have those points."

Rebecca Tarbert will compete in the 100-meter finals after she ran a personal best of 11.92 to rank fifth all-time. The freshman also ran a near personal best in the 200 (25.09).

"A freshman coming in to make finals in the sprints in the Big Sky is remarkable," said Mecklenburg. "The sprints crew in the conference is really strong. For us to be able to sneak in to finals with a freshman is great. I'm really excited for her and I'm looking forward to seeing what she'll do tomorrow. Those are points that we need."

Aaron Brenton (steeplechase, 9:35.54) and Cody Humphrey (discus, 164-7) also scored key points for the Eagles in their events, finishing seventh and fifth, respectively.

"Aaron rose to the occasion, what a nice race for him. He was very controlled, his steady and strong race paid off big," said Kerr. "Cody's performance has been a long time coming. I know he's excited to be back tomorrow in the shot put and do the same thing, or score even higher."

On the women's side, Samantha Baker finished sixth overall in the javelin (145-11). Freshman Bridgette Underwood (javelin, 139-9) and Kaytlyn Coleman (shot put, 45-1 3/4) finished eighth in their respective events, scoring one point each for the Eagles.

"Samantha and Bridgette are our youngsters. Samantha is going to be the leader in the javelin group next year. She was a calm and determined competitor today," said Mecklenburg. "Bridgette has struggles with injuries all year but she came in confident and threw her season-best. It happened at the right time."

Erika Lombardo ran an all-time best in the 100 of 11.95, launching herself to eighth all-time. She also moves up to fifth all-time in the 200 with a personal best of 24.45. Lombardo finished 11th overall in the 100 and ninth in the 200, narrowly missing the finals in both events.

Freshman Tyree Fort also barely missed the finals in the 100 after running an impressive time of 10.75 to rank seventh in school history.

"Amazing times from our sprinters today," said Mecklenburg. "Even from the athletes who didn't make the finals, kudos to them. And none of them are graduating, they will all be back."

Mahoney also missed the finals of the 800 by one place after crossing the finish line in 2:13.72. The junior will compete in her third and final event tomorrow in the 1,500, a race she finished fourth overall a year ago.

The final day of the championships will begin Saturday (May 16) with the women's hammer at 10 a.m. The 400-meter relays will kick off the running events at noon.

"We'll have two remarkable performances tomorrow in the 400-meter relays that I believe will set the tone for the rest of the day," said Kerr.

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