For the second time in three weeks, BYU tried to hold a home track meet Saturday afternoon, this time with national powerhouse Washington State. Other than the fact that Washington State sent most of its top athletes elsewhere and it was cold, snowy, windy and generally miserable - all went smoothly, again.
Predictably, BYU - Team United Nations - ran away with the team championship in the annual Clarence Robison Invitational.Team scores were kept, but no one could figure out why. In the men's competition it was BYU 261, Washington State 102, Weber State 40, Utah State 40, Ricks College 29, Utah 26. The women: BYU 220, Washington State 162, Weber 93, Utah State 62, Ricks 46, Utah 30, Southern Utah 12.
Winner or no, it was a disappointing meet for BYU coaches, who had eagerly anticipated a showdown with Washington State, one of the top teams in the country. It didn't happen. On Monday, BYU Coach Willard Hirschi received WSU's entry list and noticed that most of WSU's top athletes were missing. He called WSU Coach John Chaplain, who informed him that he was sending seven or eight of his athletes to the Penn Relays instead, including sprinter Augustine Olabia and hurdler Tony Li, both NCAA champions.
"We expected to have a tremendous meet," said Hirschi. "We've been depending on it all year. We wanted some great races for the fans. I'm disappointed. We sent a full team up there last year."
This isn't the first time this has happened. UCLA did much the same thing to BYU several years ago. "This happens again and again," says Hirschi. "It really hurts the sport."
The weather doesn't help, either. On Saturday morning, snow had to be vacuumed from the track before the competition could begin - which is precisely what was done two weeks ago before the start of the BYU Invitational.
"We (coaches) had a meeting and decided to hold the meet anyway," said USU Coach Greg Gensel. "We figured that there may not be fast times, but at least we could compete."
So the show went on, although no one was thrilled about it. "It was hard to have a good attitude," said Weber State sprinter/hurdler Elizabeth Kealamakia.
"If this hadn't been my last home meet, I wouldn't have run," said BYU sprinter Frank Fredericks, a senior from Namibia. "When it gets this cold at home, we don't even go to work."
Fredericks, the NCAA indoor 200-meter champ, had anticipated a rematch Saturday with Olabia, who won last month's NCAA indoor 55-meter championship by edging Notre Dame's Rocket Ismail and Fredericks. But with Olabia elsewhere, Fredericks had no competition in the 100, which he won with a time of 10.21.
The 200 was another matter. Before the race, Fredericks agreed to switch lanes with teammate Oleyemi Kayode. Fredericks moved to an outside lane, where Kayode could see him from the inside. "I wanted to pull him along (to a fast time)," Fredericks explained. Kayode, who like Fredericks is from Africa, did more than that. He passed his training partner midway through the turn and opened up a one-yard lead at the top of the homestretch.
"I expected him to pass me, but I didn't think he would go past me that fast," said Fredericks. "I didn't think I'd catch him." But he did. Fredericks ran down Kayode to win in a slowish 21.11 (to Kayode's 21.17).
Foreign athletes - Fredericks and Kayode, for instance - dominated Saturday's meet, which of course is nothing new in the sport these days. Like many other track powers, BYU has long built its teams around foreigners, especially its women's team. On Saturday, Anu Kaljurand, a sophomore from Estonia (Soviet Union), won the 100-meter high hurdles in 13.3, just ahead of teammate Shu-Hwa Wang, a freshman from Taiwan who later won the 100-meter dash in 11.87. Dorota Buczkowska (Poland) easily won the 800 in 2:12.09. Anna Mosdell (Canada) won the discus with a throw of 158-9, Hui-Chen Lee (Taiwan) won the javelin with a throw of 160 feet and Kartsi Leppaluotoo (Finland) was second in the shot put,
"The NCAA cut scholarships (for track), and if you want to have a representative team at nationals, you have to go after proven talent," says BYU women's Coach Craig Poole. "We have a very diverse group, and they'll probably be even more diverse in the future. We try to get U.S. athletes first, like in California and Texas. If not, we go elsewhere."
On Saturday, Tara Laws, the former prep star from Blanding, won the 5,000. Nicole Birk, a senior from Alpine with All-America credentials, won the 1,500 in 4:34.19, seven seconds ahead of her nearest challenger.
Kealamakia, a sophomore from Malad, Idaho, qualified for indoor nationals in the 400. She won the 200- and 400-meter dashes on Saturday. Then there is Utah's John Schieffer, who beat BYU's best to win the 1,500 in 3:50.37.
BYU - and foreign athletes - didn't dominate Saturday's meet entirely. Kealamakia won both the 200- and 400-meter dashes, clocking 24.90 and 55.76. Utah's John Schieffer, a sophomore from East High, reaffirmed his status as the state's top miler Saturday, winning the 1,500 in 3:50.37 with a 58-second last lap.