Utah State track and Field: Aggie women take 1st at WAC Indoor Championships, men finish 2nd

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 25 2012 9:00 p.m. MST

NAMPA, Idaho — Utah State's women track and field team collected 144 points to win the 2012 Western Athletic Conference Indoor Championships at Jacksons Indoor Track Saturday, while the USU men took second place.

The win marks the first ever WAC track and field title for the Aggie women. Idaho's women came in second place with 110 points, followed by New Mexico State (94), Louisiana Tech (89), Nevada (86), Fresno State (71) and Hawaii (67).

Utah State's men came back from an early hole to pressure Idaho for the men's title as only one point separated the two going into the 4x400 meter relay, the final event of the championship. In the end, Idaho was able to out leg the Aggies to take first place in the relay race and claim the WAC title with 217.5 points. Utah State ended up with 212.5 points, followed by Louisiana Tech with 77.

USU's men's and women's teams were the only teams to have an athlete score in each event during the three-day championship.

During Saturday's action, Utah State tallied five event champions as part of 21 first-team All-WAC honorees. USU also had 19 student-athletes garner second-team All-WAC honors on the final day. Aggie veteran head coach Gregg Gensel was awarded his eighth women's Coach of the Year award and 34th overall Coach of the Year award at Utah State.

"I think the women's victory was accomplished by a combination of things," Gensel said. "We have a complete track and field team, and you can tell that by the fact that we had an athlete score in every event on both the men and women's sides. With the amount of women's teams in the championship, that was very impressive."

In 2011, the Aggie women were extremely disappointed when they saw their lead vanish to ultimately lose by one point to Louisiana Tech.

"The ladies had a goal coming into this championship that they wanted to try to win the indoor title after losing by one point last year and they have been working very hard all year to accomplish that," said Gensel. "I am proud of what they accomplished."

Freshman Nic Bowens finished second in both the 60m and 200m to garner the honor of being voted the 2012 WAC Men's Freshman of the Year. "Nic deserves this freshman of the year award. He has done well all season, and he knew his fellow teammate (Silas Pimentel) was sick coming into the championships and Nic really stepped up his game."

Winning WAC individual titles in their respective events were seniors Katelyn Heiner (400m), Chio Lopez (mile) and Daniel Howell, (3,000m), along with sophomore Bryce Hall (weight throw). The women's 4x400 meter relay team also finished in first place. The team consisted of Heiner, juniors Bailee Whitworth and Aubrie Haymore and sophomore Kylie Hirschi.

For Howell, this is his second title at the 2012 WAC Indoor Championships as he won the 5,000m on Friday. It is also his second-straight WAC indoor 3,000m title, while Lopez won his second WAC mile title as he also won in 2009.

This marks the first WAC indoor event title for Heiner, Hall and the women's 4x100-meter relay. With a time of 3:43.59, the women's 4x400-meter relay team ranks at No. 5 in Utah State history.

Those who qualify will return to Nampa, Idaho on March 8-11 for the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships. The field for the championships will be announced on March 5 by the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Track and Field Committee. The Aggies will also be in action on March 3 at some last-chance meets that have yet to be determined.

USU WOMEN'S AWARDS: WAC Coach of the Year: Gregg Gensel First-Team All-WAC (place - event )

Stephanie Burt (2nd - distance medley)

Brittany Bushman (2nd - distance medley)

Jessie Chugg (2nd - distance medley)

Sonia Grabowska (1st - pole vault)

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