Nationals in sight for track team
Michael Bauer | reporter
The Pittsburg State track team returned to Emporia for the State Farm/Emporia State University Relays on Saturday, April 6.
This time, the full Gorilla team competed, whereas last time at ESU, they brought only the throwers.
Nine men for the Gorillas qualified for the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships to be held in Pueblo, Colo., on Thursday, May 23, and were joined by three women.
Kyle Utsey finished with first in the long jump, with a jump of 24 feet, 1 inch. The mark qualified him for Nationals. Finishing right behind him was Keenan Soles with a jump of 23 feet, 11 inches.
In the pole vault competition, Jeff Peipenbrink placed first with a heat of 16 feet, .75 inches. His teammate Josh Phillips was third.
It was a day in which many athletes not only got the green light for Nationals, but there were many who finished with a personal best, as Utsey and Philips had the best result of their careers.
John Talbert was another Gorilla to earn a spot at Nationals, with a first place heat in the discus, throwing for 183 feet, 1 inch. He finished fourth in the hammer toss, throwing for 177 feet, 11 inches.
“He’s (Talbert) been throwing pretty well, and I think he’s ready to have a breakthrough,” said Brian Mantooth, throwing coach. “Luke Wilson is getting more consistent. We have some young kids who are getting better.”
In the triple jump, Marquise Cushon was second, with a jump of 49 feet, 8 inches.
Luke Wilson finished third in the hammer, throwing for 179 feet, 6 inches. Garrett Cantrell was fifth in the javelin. It was a personal record for Wilson and Cantrell.
As for the runners, the 400-meter relay team earned a qualifying spot after finishing third in a time of 41.02 seconds.
In the women’s events, Larissa Richards accomplished three qualifying marks. She won the shot put with a throw of 47 feet, 7.25 inches, while winning the discus with a toss of 158 feet, 4 inches. In the hammer throw, she was second after a throw of 170 feet, 9 inches.
“Larissa did pretty well,” Mantooth said. “She had a personal record in the hammer and moved up nationally in the hammer. Discus, she pretty much solidified her spot at nationals.”
Erica Testa was the champion in the women’s steeplechase with a time of 11:46.92. Lauren Ouderkirk finished third in the 400-meter hurdles in a personal best time of 1:02.93. Cate Dunn also finished third in the 5,000-meter with a time of 18:39.29.
“I was very pleased. I don’t think we had any real disappointments,” Mantooth said.
Amanda Callaway was second in the 1,500-meter, while Casey Epps crossed the finish line right behind her to secure third place.
Hanna DeVries placed third in the 3,000-meter in a time of 10:45.29, while Charissa Wall placed fourth in the hammer throw.
The forecast on Saturday may have been gusty, but Mantooth said conditions were much better than the first time the throwers competed in Emporia last month.
“This time, they had something to work with, which was great,” Mantooth said. “It allowed them to be athletic in the conditions and have some nice marks.”
The track team will now return home this Saturday for its fifth annual Dave Suenram Gorilla Classic.
While the weather doesn’t appear to be too bad for this Saturday, April 13, Mantooth is hoping for more dependable conditions for the remainder of the season.
“Hopefully this next weekend, we can train better because of the weather,” Mantooth said. “Once we get some solid four or five days of training a week, I think we’re going to start throwing better.”