May 15, 2008
ALL-ACCESS AUDIO: Interview with Fortner
FORT WORTH, Texas - University of New Mexico junior Sandy Fortner staked her claim as the greatest female athlete in the Mountain West Conference with a sensational victory in the heptathlon this afternoon at TCU's Lowdon Track and Field Complex. Fortner demolished Darcy Ahner's 18-year-old record in the seven-event competition and guaranteed her bid to the NCAA Outdoor Championship meet with a winning score of 5,641 points. She became the first Lobo to win the conference heptathlon since Ahner captured the Western Athletic Conference title in 1989.
After finishing no higher than fourth in her first two MWC heptathlon competitions, the product of tiny Fort Sumner, N.M. put together an almost flawless performance on Wednesday and Thursday to upset top-seeded Emily Pearson of Colorado State (5,605) for the second time this year at the conference championships. Fortner also knocked off Pearson, a senior, in the pentathlon (five events) at the Mountain West Indoor Championships with a similar school record and NCAA automatic qualifying performance.
Fortner finished day one in second place, trailing Pearson by 14 points, but quickly vaulted into the lead with a strong performance in the long jump to open Thursday's events. She recorded a mark of 18' 11 3/4" (5.78m) - 15 inches better than Pearson (17' 9" - 5.41m) - to take a 95-point lead. Colorado State senior Katie Lloyd, meanwhile, won the event with a jump of 19' 4" (5.89m).
Fortner, however, turned in one of the most important performances of her career in what was perhaps her weakest event and one dominated by Pearson - the javelin. Fortner recorded her fourth career best of the competition with a throw of 133' 7" (40.72m) - 11' 6" beyond her previous best and just over six feet shy of her CSU rival. Pearson entered the meet owning a 23-foot advantage over Fortner in the event.
Holding a narrow 58-point lead and dealing with a sore knee entering the final event - the 800-meter run - Fortner needed to finish no more than four seconds behind Pearson to capture the gold medal.
After getting out quickly, the Lobo junior survived her rival's late charge down the final straightaway, finishing with a time of 2:22.96 - 1.33 seconds behind Pearson. Fortner's time was two seconds faster than her previous best this spring and just 0.48 off her career best in the event.
Fortner's final score was the second highest in Mountain West Conference history and just two points shy of the MWC Championship meet record. The score also made her eligible for a U.S. Olympic Trials berth as she unofficially moved into sixth in the current NCAA rankings with the seventh-best performance by any American woman in 2008.
She surpassed Ahner's 1989 school record by 222 points and her own previous best by 298 points.
Fortner is scheduled to compete in five more events on Friday and Saturday - the high jump, long jump, shot put, 4x100 and 4x100 relays.
Sandy Fortner's MWC Heptathlon Performance At A Glance
-First Lobo since Darcy Ahner in 1989 (WAC) to capture a conference heptathlon crown
-Broke Ahner's 1990 school record by 222 points
-Surpassed her own previous best score by 298 points
-Automatically qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa (June 11-12)...unofficially the No. 6 score in the NCAA this year.
-Achieved "B" qualifying standard for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials and was 109 points shy of the automatic "A" standard...unofficially the seventh-best score by an American woman in 2008.
-Becomes the third woman and first New Mexican in UNM women's history to qualify for the NCAA Championships in the heptathlon, joining Ahner (1989 & '90) and former coach Keren Sari-Bentzur (2002 & '03)
-Recorded the second-best heptathlon score in Mountain West history and MWC Championship meet history, and the best score by an MWC athlete since 2001.
-Posted career-bests in four of the seven events: (100m hurdles, shot put, 200m, javelin)