ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – In a span that head coach Ralph Lindeman called “the greatest hour in Air Force women’s track and field history”, junior Jaci Smith (5000-meter run) and senior Shelley Spires (high jump) captured Mountain West championship titles this afternoon (Feb. 23), as the Falcons wrapped up the second day of competition at the MW Indoor Championships in Albuquerque.
With a time of 16:25.99 – the second-fastest time in MW Championship Meet history, Smith defeated the 18-runner field, which include the nation’s No. 7 runner, by nearly five seconds and became the program’s first-ever conference champion at 5000 meters – and just the third in any individual running event. Smith also improved her own Junior Class Record and No. 2 standing on the program’s all-time list, as the converted time of 15:59.92 is just the program’s second to break the 16-minute mark.
Spires picked up the Falcons’ second title of the day just 45 minutes later, as she successfully defended her Mountain West title in the high jump. Perfect on first-attempt clearances throughout the winning jump, Spires cleared 6’0½” – the second-best jump in MW Championship Meet history – to win the title.
After two days of competition, the women are in second with 26 points. Colorado State currently leads the field with 45 points, while less than five points separate Air Force, 11th-ranked New Mexico (third, 25.50), Boise State (fourth, 25), Fresno State (fifth, 24.33) and Nevada (sixth, 21.50). UNLV and San Jose State are tied for seventh with 17 points, while Wyoming is one point back (16) in ninth. Utah State (10th, 8.67) and San Diego State (11th, 8) round out the women’s field.
Backed by a runner-up finish from sophomore Connor Stevens, the Falcons collected four scoring finishes in the pole vault. Stevens cleared 16’6¾” to finish second, while freshman Mitch Lipe tied for third with a clearance of 16’2¾”. Sophomore Logan Grizzle matched that clearance to finish fifth in the standings, while freshman Justin Harmon – just hours after completing the heptathlon – finished seventh with a jump of 15’11”.
Air Force accounted for a trio of top-five finishes in the heptathlon, as senior Calvin Berstler paced Air Force with a third-place finish (5331 points) – and the program’s first all-conference honor in the heptathlon since 2013. The senior picked up a pair of first-place event finishes on the final day, as he won the 60-meter hurdles (career-best 8.39) and 1000-meter run (2:40.57). Berstler rounded out his event finishes with a third-place clearance of 14’9” in the pole vault.
Harmon improved his Freshman Class Record in the heptathlon, as he scored 4926 points to finish fourth, while senior Tyler Berson finished fifth with 4818 points. Harmon cleared 15’9” to win the heptathlon’s pole vault, while earning runner-up honors in the 60-meter hurdles (8.53) and an eighth-place finish in the 1000-meter run (career-best 3:04.07). Berson captured runner-up honors in the 1000-meter run (season-best 2:48.17) and fifth-place marks in the 60-meter hurdles (season-best 8.97) and pole vault (14’1¼”) for the best heptathlon total of his career.
The men also collected three scoring finishes in the 5000-meter run, including a pair of top-four marks. Junior Mickey Davey clocked a time of 14:52.14 to finish third in the 22-runner race, while senior Andrew Johnston finished just behind him with a time of 14:52.34. Fellow senior Jimmy Shipley rounded out the Falcons’ scoring finish, as he finished seventh with a time of 15:00.22.
Senior John Reynolds placed second in the long jump (23’9”), while classmate Jake LaCoste added a sixth-place distance of 22’11” in that event. Senior Brooks Hardy collected a scoring finish in the weight throw, as he recorded a throw of 58’10¼” to finish fifth in the weight throw.
Air Force currently leads the team standings with 66.50 points, while Colorado State is second with 58. Less than five points separate New Mexico (third, 44.50) and Utah State (fourth, 40), while Wyoming (fifth, 13) and Boise State (sixth, 9) rounded out the standings.
Several qualifying races were also contested today, with Air Force advancing 12 into tomorrow’s finals.
The Falcons captured two of the top-three marks in three qualifying races, with junior Micah Fontaine (60-meter hurdles, 8.05), senior Tyler Koss (400-meter dash, 48.04) and junior Miguel Molas (60-meter dash, 6.82) collecting winning times in their respective events. Senior Davis Collins finished third in the 60-meter hurdles (8.11), while junior Sedacy Walden and senior Robbie Anderson earned that same placement in the 400-meter dash (48.46) and 60-meter dash (6.95), respectively.
In his first race of the season, senior Jamiel Trimble clocked a time of 21.14 to win the preliminary round of the 200-meter dash, while Anderson and Molas also advanced to the finals after posting career-best times to finish fifth and sixth, respectively. Anderson improved his No. 8 standing on the Academy’s all-time list with a time of 21.56, while Molas debuted in ninth with a time of 21.58.
Sophomore Michael Rhoads and senior Zac Petrie posted advancing times in the 800-meter run, as Rhoads won his heat with a time of 1:53.72 and Petrie clocked a time of 1:53.42 to advance on time. Junior Noah Riley rounded out the list of Air Force qualifiers, as he posted a time of 4:13.17 in the mile.
The conference championships conclude tomorrow (Feb. 24) with Championship Saturday. Action begins at 10:00 a.m. (MT), with the men’s shot put and high jump.