Outdoor Track: Decathletes Lead UNM Into Second After Day Two Of MWC Championships
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- University of New Mexico junior Mark Johnson and sophomore Ryan Voge combined for nine points this afternoon in the decathlon to help the Lobo men open the 2003 Mountain West Conference Championships in second place. Meanwhile, senior Keren Sari-Bentzur placed fourth in the heptathlon to move the UNM women into third place with five points. BYU senior Curtis Pugsley reclaimed the decathlon title, while San Diego State senior Leslie Miller earned her second-straight heptathlon crown. All 22 athletes had to endure a storm front which rolled through the Albuquerque area, bringing wind gusts over 30 miles per hour throughout much of the afternoon.
Johnson, the defending MWC decathlon champion, just missed earning outdoor all-conference honors for the second-straight year, finishing fourth with a score of 6,525 in just his third career decathlon competition. He trailed Air Force’s Nick Herald by a mere 10 points entering the final event of the day, the 1,500-meter run. However, Herald turned in a fine race, earning a wire-to-wire victory to outscore Johnson 662-482 to secure third place. The Fontana, Wisc. native began the day well though, battling the punishing winds to move up to third place after finishing tied for second in the 110-meter hurdles (15.51) and tied for third in the pole vault (13-09.25).
Meanwhile, Voge turned in a solid two-day performance, bettering his personal-best by 49 points en route to a fifth place score of 6,448. The transfer from Oregon State University tied for fifth in the pole vault (12-09.50) and was third in the 1,500 (5:07.63) to earn a valuable four points for the Lobos. Teammate Dan Feltman was victimized by a scoreless performance in the discus and finished 10th overall. Feltman, who began the day in third place, was unable to keep any of his three discus attempts in-bounds in the swirling windstorm and fell down the standings. However, the freshman from Deming, N.M. rebounded with a convincing victory in the javelin (177-03). Fellow freshman Robert Gunn, from Farmington, N.M., was 11th in his second career decathlon competition, scoring a personal-best 5,669.
"I thought we were in great shape after the first day, but we didn’t quite finish like I’d hoped," said UNM head coach Matt Henry. "It’s a little disappointing, but we’ve got a strong group of guys coming back next year."
"That’s something that happens to even the best decathletes," assistant coach Scott Steffan said of Feltman’s discus foul. "On his final attempt, he even moved up to the front of the ring and just tried to get one in without spinning, but it sailed out of bounds in the wind like the first two. These things just happen to decathletes sometimes."
Meanwhile, in the women’s competition, Sari-Bentzur moved briefly into third place after taking second in the long jump (19-06.25) to open the afternoon. However, the reigning MWC indoor pentathlon champion finish in the javelin (101-02) and sixth in the 800 (2:29.67) to fall back down to fourth with a total of 5,170 points. Teammates Amber Nolte and Suzanne Nguyen finished ninth and 12th, respectively. Nolte, a sophomore, improved on her career-best by 148 points (3,840), while Nguyen, a freshman from Sandia High School in Albuquerque, bettered her season-best by 189 points (3,682).
Miller and teammate Shanon Meyer finished 1-2 in the heptathlon, while fellow Aztecs Alisha Lasswell and Nicole Carmier were seventh and eighth, respectively, to give SDSU the early team lead (21 pts.). BYU leads the men’s competition with 21 points behind a 1-2-6 finish by Pugsley, the 2000 MWC Champ, Devin Scoresby and Erik Rasmussen.
The main events get underway Friday morning at 10 a.m. with the men’s and women’s hammer throw. Running events begin at 1:30 p.m. with the men’s and women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. The Friday weather forecast for the Albuquerque area calls for light winds and mostly sunny skies with a high of 86 degrees. Admission to Friday’s events is six dollars for adults, three dollars for children (high school and under).
**Complete results from heptathlon and decathlon can be found on www.themwc.com