Dec. 7, 2012
USAF ACADEMY, Colo. - Highlighted by the second-farthest weight throw in Academy history from senior Brian Ford, the Air Force track and field team opened the 2012-13 season with an impressive showing at the Air Force Holiday Open on Friday, Dec. 7.
Ford easily won the first event of the meet, improving his personal-best distance to 61'0¼" to better the 14-competitor field by over two feet. In addition to becoming just the fifth Falcon in program history to better the 60-foot mark, Ford added one foot to the program's Senior Class Record, which had been held by Vern Conway since 1992.
Ford, who also earned a third-place finish in the shot put (49'5"), was one of four members of the men's squad to earn first-place finishes at the Holiday Open. Sophomore Jake Spuller clocked a time of 34.85 to win the 300-meter dash, while junior David Ptacek took first in the 500-meter dash with a time of 1:05.47. Joining Ford as an event winner from the field was senior Cale Simmons, who cleared 17'8½" to win the pole vault.
Five other men finished as the top collegian in the open competition. Sophomore Blue Kearney was the top collegiate finisher in both the long jump (22'8½") and triple jump (44'8") events, finishing second overall. Junior Zach Wood tied for the top college spot in the high jump, as he cleared 6'6¾" to tie for second overall. Freshman Joe Wilkin was the top collegiate finisher in the 60-meter hurdles (8.46, second overall), while classmate Evan Fortney finished first among college runners (and second overall) in the mile run with an altitude-adjusted time of 4:20.32. Senior Ted Artz also earned a top-collegiate spot, as he finished third overall in the 1000-meter run (2:31.52).
Simmons led the Falcons to a sweep of the top-six finishes in the pole vault. Sophomore Joey Uhle and junior Cort Rogers tied for second with clearances of 16'8¾", while freshman Dylan Bell matched that mark to finish fourth based on attempts. Senior Michael Tibbs rounded out the top five with a career-best mark of 16'4¾", while junior Elliot Beski finished sixth at 16'0¾".
Air Force also claimed a sweep of the top spots in the 500-meter dash, as Ptacek paced the Falcons to the top four spots. Junior Alex Lindsay finished second with a time of 1:05.65, while sophomore Siotame Latu and junior Josh Nielsen finished third (1:05.93) and fourth (1:06.58), respectively.
The men also took three of the top-four spots in the weight throw, as well as three of the top-five times in the mile. Junior Jalen Fooster finished second to Ford in the weight throw with a toss of 58'9¼", while senior Brendon Birdsell placed fourth with a career-best distance of 52'11½" (a personal improvement of over five feet). In the mile, sophomore Zack Christenson and freshman Sean Bapty finished fourth (4:30.90a) and fifth (4:31.32a), respectively, behind Fortney.
In addition to his fifth-place finish in the pole vault, Tibbs placed fourth in the 60-meter hurdles (8.51) and tied with sophomore Evan McDowell and senior Travis Smith for fifth in the high jump with a mark of 6'4¾". McDowell also garnered a top-five mark in the hurdles, as he and classmate Casey Riggs tied for fifth with matching times of 8.52 (a career-best time for both).
Air Force also collected top-five finishes from freshman Grant Hamilton (second in shot put, 50'6¾"), senior Uzor Udensi (third in 300-meter dash, 35.12), senior Andrew Quallio (third in 3000-meter run, 8:29.82a) and junior Matt Caldwell (fifth in 1000-meter run, 2:34.11).
Three members of the women's team accounted for first-place finishes, including freshman Riley Vann, who won the pole vault with the 10th-best clearance in Academy history (11'11¾") and paced the Falcons to a sweep of the top three placements. Senior Bizzy Mellado matched that mark to place second, while freshman Morgan Horn cleared 11'5¾" to take third.
Juniors Kassie Gurnell and Annette Eichenberger won the triple jump (40'6¾") and 1000-meter run (3:04.96), respectively, while leading the Falcons to a share of the top-two finishes in those events. Freshman Lea Ross recorded a debut distance of 38'2¼" in the triple jump to finish second to Gurnell and enter the program's all-time rankings in sixth. Sophomore Rebecca Esselstein clocked a time of 3:05.48 to finish right behind Eichenberger in the 1000-meter run.
Senior Bethany Gross was the top collegiate finisher in the 500-meter run, finishing second overall with a time of 1:17.23. She was one of two top-five finishers for Air Force in that event, as freshman Naomi Alston placed fifth in 1:18.83. The Falcons also claimed multiple top-five finishes in the high jump, as junior Regan Rogers, senior Lesly Torres and junior Rachel Herald finished second (5'7"), fourth (5'5") and fifth (5'3"), respectively.
Freshman Emily Wagemaker rounded out the team's top-five finishers, as she placed fifth in the mile with a time of 5:47.08a, while junior Becca Bauman recorded the fourth-best weight throw mark in Academy history with a sixth-place throw of 55'1".
The Falcons return to action on Saturday, Jan. 12, when they host the annual Air Force All-Comers Meet at the Academy's Cadet Field House.