Fighting strong winds on Friday and blossoming under a warm sun on Saturday, the EWU women’s track and field team earned sixth place at the NCAA Big Sky Conference Championships, held at Eastern May 10 through 13.
“They came through when they needed to come through,” said Marcia Mecklenburg, the head women’s track coach. “They did well.”
The force of the women’s team was felt largely in the ranks of the seniors, where multiple throwers and sprinters scored in the top three places. Stephanie Ulmer, the 2002 and 2003 outdoor javelin champion, won yet another Big Sky title with a throw of 158-08, the only first place finish for the women’s side.
“It’s the best she’s thrown at a conference championship. That was a lot of fun to watch. She has performed well year in and year out,” said Mecklenburg.
Placing third in the javelin was senior Jordan Baughman, with a throw of 154-07, followed by a sixth place finish from junior Carolee Geaudreau. All three of these athletes have qualified for the NCAA Division I Regionals meet on May 26 and 27, the first round in national track and field collegiate competition.
Eagle talent ran especially deep in the 400 hurdles, with seniors Lyndsey Cooper Johnson and Haley Heater taking second and third, respectively. Both of these women have met the qualifying mark for regionals.
Springing high enough to nab a second place finish and qualify for regionals is pole vaulter Sarah Hegna, with a vault of 12-5 1/2.
The women’s 4×400 team provided an edgy finish to the meet. The first three legs were Sarah Frey, Caitlin Prunty and Lyndsey Cooper-Johnson. Frey sped the team off to a strong start, finishing first in her leg.
That lead was continued by Prunty and enlarged by Cooper-Johnson in the third lap. Anchor leg Haley Heater led the last lap by a close margin, only to be passed by Montana State and Portland State in the last 50 meters.
A third place finish put all four women on the podium, receiving their medals in front of the home crowd.
“Some days you can be that little bit faster and some days you can’t,” said Mecklenburg. “But boy [Heater] still put it on the line and it was good for her.”
Another high-scoring athlete of the meet was senior Sara Fouts, who placed third in the high jump.
“It was really thrilling for me to watch her finish her career in that place at the conference championships,” said Mecklenburg.
The hosting of the meet went smoothly, according the Head Men’s Coach Stan Kerr.
“It was first class all the way,” he said.
“The atmosphere we were trying to create was a championship atmosphere where the intensity is high and the competition is fair.”
Eastern hosted the Big Sky meet as part of a rotation among the eight universities in the Big Sky.
Before the meet, both EWU head coaches had high hopes for Eagle competition on the home turf.
“I think they responded great-We had parents I’ve never seen at a meet who came over and watched,” said Mecklenburg. “I was really happy for the athletes to have the opportunity for their families (to) watch them compete.”