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McKenzie Penne, junior, competes in the 60m hurdles qualifying. Penne finished with a time of 8.99 at the 5th annual indoor gorilla classic. Hannah Meier

Track and Field athletes earn qualifying marks, break records at Gorilla Classic competition

The track and field teams competed in the Fifth Annual Gorilla Classic from Friday, Feb. 14 to Saturday, Feb. 15 and several athletes claimed NCAA automatic qualifying marks.  

Head Coach Russ Jewett was proud of the team for their individual efforts but also their team efforts.  

“I was really pleased with our team’s performances in terms of running fast, jumping high, and throwing far but also just in terms of supporting one another and looking and acting like a team,” Jewett said. “They did pretty well on both sides.”  

On the women’s team, junior Haven Lander broke her own school record in the pole vault with her second-place finish and earned an NCAA automatic qualifying mark. Senior Cassidy Westhoff finished third in the mile run and junior Asia Anderson placed sixed in the triple jump and earned an NCAA PQ mark.  

“… On the women’s side, Haven Lander continues to impress,” Jewett said. “She set a new school record, so her lifetime best also of course in the pole vault… (She had a) very impressive performance. Cassidy Westhoff also broke a school record… in the mile run and that’s an impressive performance. Our distance medley relay broke a school record. That’s Cami Roy, Emerson Tice, Kari Blattner, and Westhoff again… and that was a provisional qualifying mark… Bri Cooks (had) another great weekend in the weight throw. It’s… the best of the season for her, that throw she made, and she won against a good thrower. So, that was very impressive too. Then I would just mention Asia Anderson who has been battling injuries really for weeks and weeks in the fall semester and even through the winter… She did a nice job at the long jump and the triple jump this weekend. (She had an) Indoor PR in the triple jump which is a pleasant surprise…”  

On the men’s team, junior Connar Southard won the mile run with a new personal best time, freshman Devon Richardson came in fourth in the high jump, sophomore Konner Swenson placed sixth in the shot put, senior Louis Rollins picked up a PQ in the prelims of the 60-meter hurdles and freshman Cameron Johnson placed sixth in the pole vault. Southard, Richardson, Swenson, and Johnson also earned NCAA qualifying marks.  

“On the men’s side…, Connar Southard almost broke our school record in the mile, didn’t quite, but it’s the second fastest all time… in the mile and he won it against some good milers,” Jewett said. “Louis Rollins had a season best provisional qualifying mark in the 60 hurdles (and that was) an impressive performance. Our distance medley relay of Straighter, Stone, Webber, (and) Southard… (earned) a provisional qualifying mark… and then a couple of vertical event guys did well; Devon Richardson in the high jump (earned a) provisional qualifying mark… and Cameron Johnson, a freshman pole vaulter.., (earned) a provisional qualifier that probably will get him into nationals. So, anyway it was a pretty good weekend for the Gorillas.”  

The Gorillas next competition is the Arkansas Qualifier in Fayetteville on Friday, Feb. 21.  

“Well, we’re just taking about half a squad down to University on Arkansas on Friday,” Jewett said. “This is the weekend prior to our conference championships. So, we’re tuning up. Some athletes need to compete in order to be completely ready to perform next weekend at conference but (for) some (athletes), it’s better to train. It just depends on the event and the person. So, we just look to get tuned up a little bit, refine our competitive skills, maybe get a little better seed mark, or get a national qualifying mark in something that we didn’t have before. That’s where we are this coming weekend.”

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