PSU men, women place top 10 at nationals
Michael Bauer, sports editor
For the first time in history, both the Pittsburg State men’s and women’s track and field teams finished in the top-10 team standings at the NCAA Division II outdoor National. The Gorilla men scored 36 point to finish fifth overall while the Pittsburg State women put up 25 points to take ninth place. It was the second-best finish at the NCAA Division II outdoor meet in school history for both teams.
“I was really proud of both teams,” said Russ Jewett, head coach. “We took a bigger squad to nationals than in the past. You feel more like a team when you have more people going.”
The meet took place in Allendale, Mich., from Thursday, May 22, to Saturday, May 24.
Junior Jeff Piepenbrink continued his dominance in the pole vault by snatching first place on Saturday to help push the Pitt State men. He cleared 17 feet, 4.5 inches to improve his school record in the discipline.
“I think it’s a big deal for him and for us coaches, too,” Jewett said. “I remember his reaction when he won it and he’s done a great job transitioning from me as his pole vault coach to a different coach.”
To win, Piepenbrink faced tough challenges with four guys making the same bar at 17 feet, 4.5 inches. But Piepenbrink won on the virtue of fewer misses on the heights that were cleared, edging out Bred Myers of Grand Valley State and giving PSU 10 points.
Sophomore Garrett Appier earned All-America honors with a fourth-place finish in the men’s shot put, posting the second-best mark in school history with a throw of 59 feet, 6.75 inches. Junior Marquise Cushon took fourth in the men’s triple jump with 51-5.75. It was the second-best mark in school history in the discipline.
The men’s 400-meter relay team of junior Andre Sanders, junior Jason Crow, freshman Bryce Starks and senior Kyle Utsey took All-America honors with a fourth-place finish in 40.34 seconds and added four team points. The 400-meter relay team edged out Albany State and fellow Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) conference foe Emporia State by less than a second.
“I’m happy for those guys,” Jewett said. “Sometimes you beat your opponent by making fewer mistakes and we placed pretty high there and ran our season-best time and performed well under pressure.”
St. Augustine won the national championship with 112 points, 45 points more than second-place finishers Adams State. The Gorillas defeated Chico State by five points.
For the Gorilla men, it was their fifth top-10 finish at outdoor nationals in school history and their best finish since the 1999 team, which finished fourth overall.
For the Pitt State women, sophomore Cassie Caswell earned All-America honors with a seventh place finish in the women’s shot put with a throw of 47-4.25.
“I was pleased with Cassie,” Jewett said. “She did her personal best in field events when it mattered most, which is tough to do. If you’re a little tense in the throwing events, you foul or don’t throw very far, but she had great assistance from her coach (Brian Mantooth) and the seventh place was two points and at nationals, that can make a difference.”
Junior Jessica Macy took All-America recognition with a seventh-place finish in the women’s 5,000 meters, crossing the finish line in 16:37.97.
MIAA outfit Lincoln University took the national championship honors by posting 64 points to beat Johnson C. Smith University by five points. Pittsburg State finished just one point behind Cal State Stanislaus but edged St. Augustine’s College by the same point total and two points ahead of Western Washington to secure a top-10 finish.
It was the third all-time top-10 placing for the Gorilla women and the highest finish since 1993, when the team that year placed in a tie for seventh place.