Feb. 25, 2010
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - One year after a knee injury forced her to redshirt the entire indoor/outdoor track seasons, Sandy Fortner returned to top of the Mountain West Conference. The University of New Mexico senior used a sensational high jump performance to take the lead after the second event of the pentathlon and never looked back en route to a landmark victory today on the first day of the MWC Championships at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Fortner smashed her own school record with an NCAA automatic qualifying score of 4,147 - the second-highest score in the nation this winter and No. 2 all-time in the Mountain West. The Fort Sumner, N.M. (population 1,060) product held off defending MWC and NCAA champion Amy Otis (formerly Menlove) of BYU by 94 points en route to her second conference pentathlon title in as many appearances.
Otis, who also won the MWC pentathlon in 2005, set the league record of 4,365 en route to the NCAA title last year in College Station, Texas. Fortner bettered her previous best in the event - recorded during her 2008 MWC title run - by 142 points.
Otis got off to an excellent start as the MWC 60-meter hurdles leader flew to a time of 8.46 in her signature event. Fortner held her own, however, clocking a season-best time of 8.71 (second).
Thirty minutes later she surged into the lead by winning the high jump with a lifetime best clearance of 5-09.25 (1.76m). After missing her opening attempt at 5-02.25, Fortner caught fire, clearing every bar on her first jump until finally bowing out at 5-10.50.
As expected, she then extended her 90-point advantage over Otis in her strongest event, the shot put. Fortner's best mark of 41-11.75 (12.70m) was well off her season-best, but well beyond the rest of the field. Colorado State's Kristen Kugler was the nearest competitor at 41-08.00, while Otis was third with a mark of 38-02.75.
Otis, however, cut in to Fortner's 186-point lead in the fourth event, the long jump. The BYU senior jumped a season-best 19-11.50 (6.08) to win the event with ease, but once again Fortner kept the damage to a minimum, finishing second with a solid leap of 19-01.25 (5.82m).
The MWC title came down to the finale as Fortner held a tenuous 107-point lead entering the 800 - easily her least favorite of the five events. Fortner simply locked on to Otis, however, and let the Cougar star essentially pull her around the oval. Fortner secured the gold medal with a time of 2:27.96 (seventh) - just off her career-best indoors and less than a second behind Otis (fourth).
Meanwhile, in the men's heptathlon, New Mexico freshman Richard York finished the first day of competition in second place with a score of 2,863 through four events. His junior teammate Brian Wilson is two spots behind York in fourth place with a score of 2,738. Lobo senior Jeremy Lee, who is making his collegiate debut this winter, is within scoring range in 10th place (2,359).
BYU junior Phillip Bettis, the 2009 MWC champion, is the leader with 3,000 points.
York (35-10.50, 10.93m) and Wilson (39-04.00, 11.99) both had season-bests in the shot put, while Wilson turned in his best high jump performance of the year (6-03.50, 1.92m) to put themselves in contention with three events remaining tomorrow.
The heptathlon action resumes at 11 a.m. with the 60 hurdles, pole vault and 1,000-meter run. Friday's action also includes event finals for the weight throw, long jump, women's pole vault, and men's high jump, as well as the 5,000 and distance medley relays on the track.