Track and Field Has High Hopes for Big Sky Championships in Bozeman

Men’s and women’s teams each look to improve on last year’s finishes at conference meet

The Eastern Washington University track and field team will head to Bozeman, Mont., for the Big Sky Conference Indoor Championships Friday and Saturday (Feb. 22-23) hosted by Montana State University at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

“We refer to this as championship week and for good reason,” said men’s head coach Stan Kerr, “When we started training back in October, everything we’ve done on the track and in the weight room leads up to this.”

At last year’s indoor meet, the men had their best finish in school history, scoring a school record 88 points to take third. The women finished eighth with 45 points. In the preseason poll of Big Sky coaches, Eastern’s men were voted to finish fifth and the women were voted ninth.

“Traditionally we have always finished higher than we’re ranked, so I really don’t  pay a whole lot of attention to those polls,” said head women’s coach Marcia Mecklenburg, “I anticipate us improving on those predictions once again.”

Representing Eastern for the men will be Brad Michael (200m, 400m, 4x400), Michael Okoro (200m, 400m, 4x400), Jake Clizbe (long jump), Kris Durr (long jump), David Thor (800m, distance medley relay), Jordan Curnutt (800m, DMR), Cody Fishel (high jump), Marlyn Anderson (shot put), Jon Buchanan (shot put, weight throw), Cody Humphrey (shot put), Vince Hamilton (3,000, 5,000), Chris Schroll (3,000, 5,000) , Kramer Green (DMR), Quin Olivas (DMR), Zack Nielsen (weight throw), Jordan Arakawa (weight throw), Shaun Lemafa (weight throw), Jaime Alnassim (weight throw), Nick Stearns (pole vault), Nick Olsson (4x400) and Collin Green (4x400).

One of Eastern’s most consistent event areas this season has been the throws and that trend will appear to continue this weekend. They will have five competitors in the weight throw and three in the shot put.

“As a group I think our throwers are going to have a great meet,” said Kerr, “The complement of competitors we’re taking can put a lot of pressure on the Big Sky and come away with some good points.”

Looking to build on his third-place finish in last year’s meet is Nielsen, a junior who is ranked second in the weight throw heading into this weekend (61-0).

“Zack is really leading the way and he has a lot of competition this weekend,” said Kerr, “He knows he has to get after it to put himself on top of the podium, but I’m not going to put it past him to do so.”

Eastern has two competitors in both the 200 and 400 this weekend. Michael set the school record of 46.97 in the 400 at the 2012 BSC Championships in a second-place effort and also placed third in the 200. He is ranked third in the 200 (21.91) and sixth in the 400 (48.53) on the conference lists. Okoro, who was fifth in the 200 last year, is ranked fifth in the 200 (21.96) and 12th in the 400 (48.98). Those two were both members of the Big Sky Champion and school-record breaking 4x400 relay team last season.

“Michael and Brad are both up for good meets competing in three events,” said Kerr, “We should do very well in the 200, 400 and 4x400.”

Kerr also believes the jumping squad will enter the meet with big ambitions, as Clizbe, Durr, Fishel and Stearns all look to improve on their season-best marks and move up the rankings.

Another group looking to prove themselves will be the distance runners, who will bring Hamilton, Schroll, Thor, Curnutt and Olivas to Bozeman.

“We have some very talented guys in the distance events, which are a highly-competitive field in the Big Sky, said Kerr, “I’m looking forward to see what they can do.”

Competing for the women will be Vania Tauvela (weight throw), Emma Murillo (weight throw), Olivia Midles (weight throw), Alyssa Neal (triple jump, long jump), Brianna Okoro (long jump), Keisa Monterola (pole vault), Robin Taylor (pole vault), Anandae Clark (pole vault), Chloe Hall (pole vault), Amber Troyer (pole vault), Brita Kintz (pole vault), Whitney Leavitt (200m, 4x400), Berenice Penaloza (3,000, 5,000), Katie Mahoney (1 mile, distance medley relay), Kelly Downey (DMR), Jozie Kimes (high jump, DMR), Stephanie Dye (DMR), Sierra Arlauskas (triple jump),  Elise Jepsen (high jump), Angelica Rodriguez (4x400), Leiran Cornish (4x400) and Martha Sanford  (4x400).

Eastern sees opportunity for big points with its stacked field of six competitors in the pole vault, including defending champion and current conference leader Monterola (12-10 1/4). Taylor, who was second at last year’s outdoor championships, sits No. 2 in the conference with a mark of 12-9 1/2.  Also looking to get into the mix is Clark, a true freshman who is ranked fourth in the Big Sky with her season-best vault of 12-6 1/4. The trio of Monterola, Taylor and Clark will each head into the meet with their eyes on that podium.

“Our pole vault group has the most depth and is also ranked the highest, so my expectations from them are pretty high,” said Mecklenburg, “Coach Allison has really been talking with them and coming up with some very realistic goals.”

In addition to the vault, the remainder of the jumps squad will also be a big contributor this weekend as each jumping event will have two Eastern competitors. Neal, a true freshman, comes in to the meet ranked fourth in both the triple jump (37-10 1/2) and long jump (18-5 1/4). Jepsen is ranked eighth in the high jump with a mark of 5-5.

“From an event area standpoint, the jumps in general will be where we’ll be looking for most of our points,” said Mecklenburg.

Individually, Mecklenburg believes there is some potential from its three competitors in the weight throw in Tauvela, Murillo and Midles, who sit third (58-8 1/2), seventh (55-9 3/4) and 11th (53-4 1/4) in the conference, respectively. She also thinks Leavitt and Penaloza can be a factor in their events.

“Even though a lot of our athletes aren’t ranked as high, they can still contribute,” said Mecklenburg, “Sometimes just a few points can make a big difference in the team standings.”

For Eastern, the meet begins Friday at 12:30 p.m. with the women’s weight throw and will conclude with the women’s distance medley relay. The meet will pick back up Saturday at 10 a.m. with the men’s weight throw and will be capped off with the women’s 4x400 relay. Meet information is available at

“All the athletes coming into the Big Sky meet know they’re in for something special,” said Kerr, “There will be a warehouse of talent in Bozeman and we will be in a position to peak and come away with championships.”

Men’s Qualifiers/Records

Big Sky Championships – Feb. 22-23 – Bozeman, Mont.
NCAA Championships – Mar. 8-9 – Fayetteville, Ark.
School Records Broken: None
Total Big Sky Championships Qualifying Marks Attained: 17 (New: One – Michael 200)

Marlyn Anderson – Shot Put – 54-3 3/4 – Snohomish, Wash. (Snohomish HS ’09)
Zack Nielsen – Weight Throw – 59-9 – Renton, Wash. (Lindbergh HS ’09)
Jordan Arakawa – Weight Throw – 58-6 1/2 – Olympia, Wash. (Capital HS ’10)
Michael Okoro – 400 meters – 48.98 – Lakewood, Wash. (Clover Park HS ’10)
Michael Okoro – 200 meters – 21.96 – Lakewood, Wash. (Clover Park HS ’10)
Nick Stearns – Pole Vault – 15-5 – Pahrump, Nev. (Pahrump Valley HS ’11)
Cody Fishel – High Jump – 6-6 3/4 – Covington, Wash. (Kentwood HS ’09)
Thomas Kassa – High Jump – 6-6 3/4 – Anacortes, Wash. (Anacortes HS ’10)
Vince Hamilton – 5,000 meters – 14:24.52 – Spokane, Wash. (North Central HS ‘11/ Boise State)
Vince Hamilton – 3,000 meters – (Qualified in 5,000) – Spokane, Wash. (North Central HS ‘11/ Boise State)
Chris Schroll – 5,000 meters – 14:55.10 – Puyallup, Wash. (Emerald Ridge HS ‘10/ UNC-Pembroke)
Chris Schroll – 3,000 meters – (Qualified in 5,000) – Puyallup, Wash. (Emerald Ridge HS ‘10/ UNC-Pembroke)
Jon Buchanan – Shot Put – 53-6 1/2 – Yakima, Wash. (East Valley HS ’09)
Brad Michael – 400 meters – 48.53 – Vancouver, Wash. (Skyview HS ’11)
Jon Buchanan – Weight Throw – 56-1 1/4 – Yakima, Wash. (East Valley HS ’09)
Jake Clizbe – Long Jump – 22-9 3/4 – Kalama, Wash. (Kalama HS ’12)
Brad Michael – 200 meters – 21.91 – Vancouver, Wash. (Skyview HS ’11)

Women’s Qualifiers/Records

Big Sky Championships – Feb. 22-23 – Bozeman, Mont.
NCAA Championships – Mar. 8-9 – Fayetteville, Ark.
School Records Broken: None
Total Big Sky Championships Qualifying Marks Attained: 10 (New: Three – Neal TJ, LJ, Murillo WT)

Keisa Monterola – Pole Vault – 12-10 1/4 – Caracus, Venezuela (Licro Caracas HS ‘06/ Clackamas CC)
Anandae Clark – Pole Vault – 12-6 1/4 – Nine Mile Falls, Wash. (Lakeside HS ’12)
Robin Taylor – Pole Vault – 12-9 1/2 – Blaine, Wash. (Blaine HS ’10)
Vania Tauvela – Weight Throw – 58-8 1/2– Orting, Wash. (Orting HS ’09)
Elise Jepsen – High Jump – 5-5 – Kennewick, Wash. (Kamiakin HS ’09)
Berenice Penaloza – 5,000 meters – 17:52.41 – Yakima, Wash. (Eisenhower HS ’11)
Berenice Penaloza – 3,000 meters – (Qualified in 5,000) – Yakima, Wash. (Eisenhower HS ’11)
Alyssa Neal – Long Jump – 18-5 1/4 – Salem, Ore. (North Salem HS ’12)
Alyssa Neal – Triple Jump – 37-10 1/2 – Salem, Ore. (North Salem HS ’12)
Emma Murillo- Weight Throw – 55-9 3/4 – Kennewick, Wash. (Southridge HS ’10)


The following Eagle athletes have earned All-Big Sky Conference honors (top three finish) in previous Big Sky Conference track and field championships (indoors and outdoors):

Jonathan Buchanan – (2011 Indoors: 3rd in shot put)
Brad Michael – (2012 Outdoors: 3rd in 400; 2012 Indoors: 2nd in 400, 3rd in 200)
Zack Nielsen – (2012 Indoors: 3rd in weight throw)
Michael Okoro (2011 Outdoors: Champion in 200)
Phillip Puccino – (2012 Indoors: 3rd in triple jump)
Nick Stearns – (2012 Indoors: 3rd in pole vault)
Brad Wall – (2012 Indoors: 3rd in 400; 2011 Outdoors: Champion in 400; 2011 Indoors: Champion in 400; 2010 Outdoors: Champion in 400)
Steven Warner (2012 Outdoors: 3rd in 110 hurdles; 2012 Indoors: Champion in 60 hurdles)
4x400 Relay (2011 Outdoors: 3rd/Michael Okoro, Kramer Green, Collin Green, Brad Wall; 2012 Indoors: Champion/Collin Green, Michael Okoro, Brad Michael, Brad Wall)
4x100 Relay (2011 Outdoors: 2nd/Alex Flores, Michael Okoro, Kurt Williams, Brad Wall)

Michelle Coombs – (2012 Outdoors: 2nd in Javelin; 2009 Outdoors: Champion in Javelin)
Keisa Monterola  - (2012 Outdoors: Champion in pole vault; 2012 Indoors: Champion in pole vault)
Olivia Midles – (2011 Outdoors: 2nd in hammer throw)
Brianna Okoro - (2011 Outdoors: 3rd in long jump; 2010 Outdoors: Champion in 200, 3rd in 100, 3rd in long jump)
Robin Taylor – (2012 Outdoors: 2nd in pole vault)
Elise Jepsen – (2012 Outdoors: 3rd in high jump)
4x400 Relay – (2012 Indoors: 2nd/Whitney Leavitt, Nicole Nida, Angelica Rodriguez, Chelsea Lawhead)


Big Sky Conference Preseason Polls
Voting is calculated with each team receiving 11 points for a first place vote, 10 points for a second place vote, etc. Coaches are allowed to vote for their respective teams. Below are the final results with the number of first place votes in parenthesis.

Men's Poll 

Team, Points
Northern Arizona, 119 – nine first-place votes
Montana State, 97 – two first-place votes
Sacramento State, 93
Weber State, 88
Eastern Washington, 78
Southern Utah, 65
Idaho State, 64
Montana, 53
North Dakota, 25
Northern Colorado, 24
Portland State, 20

Women's Poll 

Team, Points
Weber State, 114 – five first-place votes
Sacramento State, 113 – six first-place votes
Northern Arizona, 85
Portland State, 75
Southern Utah, 72
Montana, 65
Montana State, 65
Idaho State, 55
Eastern Washington, 39
North Dakota, 22
Northern Colorado, 21


Michael Okoro- Sprints - Lakewood, Wash. (Clover Park HS ’10)
Okoro won the 400 meters at the UW Indoor Preview, clocking a time of 48.98 to qualify for the Big Sky Championships. He grabbed his second qualifying mark of the season at the Montana State Open, placing first in the 200 meters with a time of 21.89.

Marlyn Anderson – Throws – Snohomish, Wash. (Snohomish HS ’09)
Anderson has steadily improved in the shot put at each meet, going from a throw of 53-7 1/2 at the UW Invitational,  to getting off a toss of 54-3 1/4 at the Vandal Indoor, to reaching yet another personal-best at the Husky Classic with a throw of 55-2. That mark put Anderson into the record books, now ranking him 10th all-time at Eastern.

Zack Nielsen – Throws – Renton, Wash. (Lindbergh HS ’09)
Nielsen cleared the 60-foot mark in the weight throw for the first time in his career, getting off a toss of 61-0 at the Idaho Open to now rank fourth all-time at Eastern. Last season, he placed third at the BSC Championships with a throw of 59-7.

Jordan Arakawa – Throws – Olympia, Wash. (Capital HS ’10)
Arakawa hit the qualifying standard in the weight throw at the Candy Cane Invite, getting off a throw of 55-11 3/4. He improved on that mark at the UW Invitational with a toss of 58-6 1/2.

Jon Buchanan – Throws – Yakima, Wash. (East Valley HS ’09)
Buchanan reached a Big Sky qualifying mark in the shot put at the UW Invitational, hitting a mark of 53-0. He improved on that mark at the Vandal Indoor with a throw of 53-6 1/2. He also qualified in a second event, the weight throw, getting off a toss of 56-1 1/4 in Idaho. He was third in the shot put at the 2011 BSC Indoor Championships.

Cody Fishel – Jumps – Covington, Wash. (Kentwood HS ’09)
Fishel qualified for the Championships in the high jump, clearing the bar at 6-6 3/4 in a winning effort at the Montana State Open. He also won the event at the Vandal Indoor, equaling his season-best mark.

Nick Stearns – Pole Vault – Pahrump, Nev. (Pahrump Valley HS ’11)
Stearns qualified for the Big Sky Championships in the pole vault, clearing a height of 15-5 at the Montana State Open. He cleared the third-best height in school history last year (15-11) in his third-place effort at the BSC Indoor Championships last season.

Vince Hamilton – Distance – Spokane, Wash. (North Central HS ‘10/ Boise State)
In qualifying for the 5,000 meters, Hamilton ran the fourth-fastest time in school history at the UW Invitational, crossing the line at 14:24.52. That time ranks Hamilton 77th in the nation and additionally qualified him for the 3,000 meters at the Big Sky Championships.

Chris Schroll – Distance – Puyallup, Wash. (Emerald Ridge HS ‘10/ UNC-Pembroke)
Schroll ran a time of 14:55.10 in the 5,000 meters at the UW Invitational, qualifying him for the Championships and earning him the 10th spot all-time at Eastern. That also qualifies him for the 3,000 meters at the conference meet.

Brad Michael – Sprints – Vancouver, Wash. (Skyview HS ’11)
Michael qualified for the Championships in the 400 meters at the Vandal Indoor, taking second with a time of 48.53. He qualified in his second event on the season, clocking a time of 21.91 in the 200 meters at the Idaho Collegiate. He was second in the 400 at the 2012 BSC Championships, setting a new school record of 46.97 as a freshman.

Jake Clizbe – Jumps – Kalama, Wash. (Kalama HS ’12)
Clizbe hit a qualifying mark in the long jump, taking first at the Vandal Collegiate with a jump of 22-9 3/4.

Women’s 4x400 Relay (Whitney Leavitt, Martha Sanford, Leiran Cornish and Angelica Rodriguez)
The 4x400 relay ran a time of 3:50.12 at the Montana State Open, ranking them second all-time in school history. That time also currently puts them fourth on the conference list.

Vania Tauvela – Throws – Orting, Wash. (Orting HS ’09)
Tauvela moved up the record books in the weight throw, getting off a throw of 58-8 1/2 at the UW Invitational to rank third all-time at Eastern. She hit the qualifying mark a few weeks earlier at the UW Indoor Preview.

Keisa Monterola – Pole Vault – Caracas, Venezuela (Licro-Caracas HS ’06/Clackamas CC)
The returning Big Sky Champion in the pole vault both indoors and outdoors last year hit the qualifying mark, clearing 12-9 1/2 at the Candy Cane Invite. She improved on that mark at the UW Husky Classic, getting over the bar at 12-10 1/4 to take sole possession of the top spot on the conference list and rank 55th in the nation. The Venezuelan national record holder broke both of Eastern’s school records last season and was an NCAA All-American indoors.

Robin Taylor – Pole Vault – Blaine, Wash. (Blaine HS ’10)
Taylor cleared an indoor personal-best height of 12-9 1/2 in the pole vault at the at the Vandal Indoor, moving her up to third all-time in school history. That mark puts Taylor in a tie for the No. 2 spot in the conference with Idaho State’s Caitlin Maulin. It also puts Taylor in a tie for the 67th best mark in the nation.

Anandae Clark – Pole Vault – Nine Mile Falls, Wash. (Lakeside HS ’12)
Clark had a jump of 12-6 1/4 in the pole vault at the UW Indoor Preview to place first overall at the meet. That mark ranks Clark sixth all-time at Eastern and also currently puts her in a tie for 96th in the nation.

Elise Jepsen – Jumps – Kennewick, Wash. (Kamiakin HS ’09)
Jepsen hit the qualifying standard in the high jump with a mark of 5-5 at the Montana State Open. She was third at the 2012 BSC Outdoor Championships in that event.

Katie Mahoney – Distance – Richland, Wash. (Richland HS ’11)
Mahoney has cemented herself among the top ten all-time at Eastern in three different distance events during the 2013 indoor season. She ran 10:17.46 in the 3,000 meters at the UW Indoor Preview to move up to sixth all-time in school history. At the UW Invitational, she ran a time of 5:01.48 in the mile, solidifying her No. 4 all-time spot and inching her closer to No. 3 all-time (5:01.34). Mahoney grabbed the tenth spot all-time in the 800 meters, crossing the line in 2:18.38 at the Vandal Indoor.

Alyssa Neal – Jumps – Salem, Ore. (North Salem HS ’12)
Neal qualified in both the long jump and triple jump at the Idaho Collegiate, hitting marks of 18-5 1/4 and 37-10 1/2, respectively. That long jump mark moves her to eight all-time at Eastern. Her triple jump ranks sixth all-time in school history.

Berenice Penaloza – Distance – Yakima, Wash. (Eisenhower HS ’11)
Penaloza qualified for the Big Sky Championships in the 5,000 meters, running a time of 17:52.41 at the UW Husky Classic. That time also qualified Penaloza for the 3,000 and moved her up a spot in the record books, now ranking fourth all-time in school history.

Emma Murillo – Throws- Kennewick, Wash. (Southridge HS ’10)
After flirting with the conference standard in the weight throw the majority of the season, Murillo hit it and then some at the Idaho Collegiate, getting off a toss of 55-9 3/4. That mark was two feet over the qualifying standard and also moved Murillo up to sixth all-time at Eastern.

Olivia Midles – Throws – Olympia, Wash. (Capital HS ’10)
Midles had a personal-best toss of 53-4 1/4, moving her up to ninth all-time at Eastern and coming just a bit short of the conference qualifying mark of 53-9.


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