HOUSTON — The Utah Valley University women's track and field team built a strong lead Saturday during day one of the Great West Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships at Yeoman Fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Houston.

UVU took a big step toward defending its 2012 title in opening up a 63-point advantage after the first day of events. Behind the Wolverines' 104 team points follows Texas-Pan American (41), Houston Baptist (28), NJIT (27) and Chicago State (8).

On the men's side, UVU sits in third place after just four events Saturday. The Wolverines' 23 points trail HBU's 50 and UTPA's 31. Rounding out the team rankings are CSU (14) and NJIT (5).

Lexie Esplin helped UVU off to a hot start on the women's side, claiming the top spot in the women's pentathlon (3,377 points). Teammate Jessica Lingwall (3,233), last year's champion, finished second while Mykah Heaton (3,063) took fourth to place three Wolverines in the top four finishers.

UVU also got big performances in the women's high jump and 5,000 meter run. Four Wolverines finished in the top five spots in the high jump, with Autumn Robertson (5-01.75) coming in first followed closely by Heaton (5-00.50).

Darian Sharp (17:46.40) claimed the 5,000 meter title while Angela Blackham (18:04.73) and Bridget Hazel (18:17.43) joined her on the podium, finishing second and third, respectively.

For the UVU men, Josh McCabe (15:03.79) finished second in the 5,000 meters — an event he had won last year. Macy Butterfield (15:06.80) came in third while fifth and sixth place finishes from Brenden Emery (15:26.09) and Kevin Chamberlain (15:34.69) also earned team points for the Wolverines.

Saturday also saw four of the seven events in the men's heptathlon completed. Heading into Sunday, UVU's Stephen Wickhamshire (2,587 points) and Ty Rosser (2,354) currently sit first and second in points.

Allah Laryea-Akrong, the Wolverine record-holder in the 60 meter dash, posted a 6.81 to top Saturday's preliminary heat.

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Other notable performances from the opening day of the championships: women's 20 lb. weight throw (Chelsey Stegelmeier, 5th, 47-08.50; Maryn Pincock, 6th, 46-03.25); women's long jump (Esplin, 3rd, 17-07.00; Heaton, 8th, 17-00.75); men's long jump (Michael Ashton, 8th, 20-08.50); women's high jump (Lingwall, 4th, 5-00.50; Esplin, 5th, 5-00.50); women's distance medley (Celeste Gutzman, Taylor Gomez, Krissy Knowles, Sharp, 3rd, 12:48.93); men's distance medley (Brandon Edmondson, Tanner Smith, Cole Eisenhour, Chris Dorton, 3rd, 10:27.54).

The final events of the men's heptathlon get underway Sunday at 8 a.m. MT. The finals of both the field and running events follow with a 10 a.m. start time.

Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.