55 Eagles are set to compete on their own turf in front a home crowd as Eastern hosts the 2015 Big Sky Conference Championships
The stage is set for the largest-ever Big Sky Track and Field Championships.
The Eastern Washington University track and field team will compete amongst 520 athletes from 12 schools at the 2015 Big Sky Conference Outdoor Championships on May 13-16, hosted by Eastern at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash.
"It's a great venue, we're going to see a lot of great marks come out of this meet," said head men's coach Stan Kerr. "We want the best championship experience for every athlete that comes to Cheney."
The Eagles will have 28 women and 27 men competing on their home turf and look to score points that will lead the Eagles to finish higher than their preseason rankings (fifth will 100 points for the women, and seventh with 79 points for the men). Sixteen Eastern athletes are currently ranked in the top five in their respective events and have their eyes on titles and all-conference performances (top-three finish).
"We have home field advantage and that will work in our favor, especially in the event areas that have a little more depth," said head women's coach Marcia Mecklenburg. "I think we've got a strong team and I would love to see us in the top three."
"As a coaching staff, we feel really good about the number of athletes who have qualified. We look at the Big Sky release each week and see the number of men and women in the conference, and we aren't at the highest but we aren't the lowest," said Kerr. "We are going to be very competitive at this meet."
At the 2014 outdoor championships, the Eastern women placed fifth with 84 points and the men tied for sixth with Idaho State with 68 points. The Northern Arizona men and women won the team titles.
Representing the women are Catie Arrigoni (5,000, Steeplechase), Samantha Baker (Javelin), Dominique Butler (Triple Jump), Mayra Chavez (5,000), Anandae Clark (Pole Vault), Kaytlyn Coleman (Shot Put, Hammer Throw), Leiran Cornish (400, 4x400), Paris Flenoy (Shot Put), Kelsie Forcier (Shot Put, Discus, Hammer), Paula Gil-Echevarria (1,500, Steeplechase), Paige Hammock (400-hurdles, 4x100, 4x400), Jozie Kimes (Heptathlon), Brita Kintz (Pole Vault), Erika Lombardo (100, 200, 4x400, 4x100), Katie Mahoney (800, 1,500, Steeplechase), Morena Mannucci (Triple Jump), Olivia Midles (Hammer), Brooke Monson (200, 400, 4x100, 4x400), Emma Murillo (Discus, Hammer, Javelin), Megan Murphy (Triple Jump), Berenice Penaloza (5,000, 10,000), Sarah Reiter (5,000, 10,000), D'onna Robinson (Shot Put, Discus, Hammer), Morgan Romey (Shot Put, Discus), Rebecca Tarbert (100, 200, 4x100), Bridgette Underwood (Javelin), Tierra White (High Jump), and Hannah Wynstra (Javelin).
"I'm really excited. I don't know if we've ever had the maximum amount of competitors that you can have," said Mecklenburg." "We've been preparing for this meet for the past four years with the expectation that it was going to be at home and that we were going to put on a good show and try and go for the title. I feel having 28 athletes sets us up and gets us ready to execute our plan."
Fresh off her third place finish and school record-setting performance in the triple jump at this season's indoor championships, Morena Mannucci is the lone Eastern athlete on the women's side that is ranked first in her respective event. The senior heads into her last Big Sky Conference Championship ranked first in the triple jump with a mark of 40-6, just 1/4 of an inch off the outdoor school record.
"I'm super excited about Morena. It's her final year and things are finally coming together for her. She hung in there through an injury plagued career and she's going out on top," said Mecklenburg. "I hope she can pull out that win. She's our only female athlete that's ranked number one in the Big Sky, what a great accomplishment for her. I'm thankful she came to Eastern and I'm going to miss her when she leaves."
Freshman Dominique Butler will join Mannucci in the triple jump and is currently ranked fourth.
"Dominique can watch and learn and hopefully get pulled along by Morena. That's going to work to our advantage," said Mecklenburg.
Sarah Reiter brought home Eastern's first individual Big Sky cross country title in school history and is ranked second in the 10,000 and fifth in the 5,000. The sophomore finished third in the 10,000 at last year's championship meet.
"We know Sarah is a competitor. She won the Big Sky Conference Championship in cross country," said Mecklenburg. "She's someone who could sneak in a definitely finisher higher than top five. She's someone that we're expecting points from in both the 5,000 and the 10,000. She's the given."
Paula Gil-Echevarria heads a talented steeplechase crew and is ranked third going into the event. Catie Arrigoni, the defending Big Sky Champion in the event, will look to defend her title alongside Katie Mahoney, who placed fourth at last year's championships.
"One of the events we have the most depth in is the steeplechase. Those three have competed in very high quality meets in that event. They have a lot of experience and background," said Mecklenburg. "Paula may have the best time going in to the event, but Catie is the Big Sky Champion and I know she isn't going to want to pass the title on anytime soon."
Eastern won the women's 4x100-meter relay at the 2010 championships. Since then, Portland State has won the title four years in a row. Paige Hammock, Brooke Monson, Erika Lombardo, and Rebecca Tarbert will look to bring the title back to Cheney, as they are ranked fifth overall in the event.
"The 4x100 is doing great this season," said Mecklenburg. "If you're in the top five in a sprinting event in the Big Sky, that's awesome. I'm very excited for them. I'm proud of that crew and I think they'll do better than top five."
Eastern has a total of 18 qualifying marks in the throwing events. Kaytlyn Coleman sits third in the shot put and will look to score points in that event along with Morgan Romey.
"To tell you the truth, Kaytlyn's success in shot put is a blessing for us because we recruited her as a hammer thrower. I think she can go farther than 47-feet in the shot put, things seem to be clicking for her," explained Mecklenburg. "The hammer is her first love though, so that will be the event she's expecting the most from. I'm hoping she places in the top three."
Kelsie Forcier is ranked fifth in the discus, and will also compete in the hammer throw and shot put.
"Kelsie is consistent in the discus. This is her second Big Sky Conference Championships, so she's coming in with experience and she's trying to move on to the regional meet," said Mecklenburg.
Emma Murillo will look to defend her javelin title from last season's championships. She is also ranked third overall in the discus, an event she set the school record in earlier this season with a toss of 169-0.
"Emma walked on as a freshman. She took off in all of her throwing events. I'm hoping she'll do the unexpected at the championships and place in the top three, or score, in all three of her events. That would be huge for her at her final championships. She's been a gem, and I'm really going to miss her," said Mecklenburg.
Sophomore Samantha Baker is Eastern's top competitor in the javelin. She heads into the championships ranked fourth with a mark of 149-5.
"Samantha is our youngster of the group, but she has proven herself and has worked hard, "said Mecklenburg. "I'm hoping for the best for her, I truly believe in her and what she can do."
Competing for the men will be Kyle Caviezel (100), Tyree Fort (100, 4x100), Obinna Nnadi (100, 4x100), Jeremy VanAssche (100, 200, 4x100), Blair Bomber (200, 4x100, 4x400), Austin Upmeyer (200,400, 4x400), Brad Michael (400, 4x400), Nick Anthony (4x400), Dallas Snider (800), Stephen Bottoms (1,500, 5,000), Vince Hamilton (10,000), Kipton Craig (110-hurdles, 400-hurdles), Phil Puccino (Long Jump, High Jump, Triple Jump), Trenton Osborn (Long Jump), Jordan Arakawa (Hammer Throw), Austin Oser (Steeplechase), Aaron Brenton (Steeplechase), Nik Taylor (Steeplechase), Evan Banchero (Discus), Cody Humphrey (Discus, Shot Put), James Swanson (Javelin), Joey Payne (Javelin), Max Pratt (Javelin), Andrew Morgan (High Jump), Brandon Jimerson (Triple Jump), Chase Davis (Pole Vault), and Nick Stearns (Pole Vault).
Jordan Arakawa currently leads the Big Sky in the hammer throw by over four feet -- his current season best is 215-2. The senior has finished second in the hammer at the previous two outdoor championships, and will head into his final championship meet with his sight set on the title.
"Jordan is keenly aware that he has finished second for two years in a row, he's very fired up. He's progressed from week-to-week," said Kerr. "He's positioned himself to go into the championships as a favorite. He wants to get that ring at home."
Nick Stearns finished second at last year's outdoor championships with a school record breaking performance. This season, the senior is ranked first with a mark of 16-6.
"Our goal is to get Nick down to Austin, Texas for regionals. It's a two-fold goal -- win the conference championships with a mark to get to regionals," said Kerr. "Nick is an upperclassman so he knows what he needs to do."
Phil Puccino will have his plate full at his final championship meet. The senior is ranked first in the triple jump (48-5 1/4), third in the long jump (23-5 1/2), and fourth in the high jump (6-9 3/4). The triple jump should be a showdown, as Puccino shares his first place ranking with Idaho's Emmanuel Panchol.
"Phil is a tough competitor. He's not afraid of training or working hard. He knows he'll have to be his best in all three of those events," said Kerr. "He loves to compete and he's extremely diligent on his warm up and is a methodical competitor. He knows how to prepare himself. He's got a good recipe for success."
Trent Osborn, the indoor conference champion in the long jump, will look to add another title to his resume as he is ranked fifth overall in that event.
"It wasn't a surprise when Trent won the title indoors, he's a phenomenal athlete. He beat five Sacramento State jumpers indoors," said Kerr. "He is fierce when it comes to competing."
Jeremy VanAssche, the brand new school record holder in the 100, sits atop the conference performance list with a time of 10.42. The freshman is also ranked third overall in the 200.
"Jeremy is very charged -- he's a high energy guy. He diligently follows the other sprinters. I really like his mindset and how he prepares for a meet. He's very aware of his competition and is poised to do a very good job when that gun goes off," said Kerr. "One of his goals is to be a four-peat in the 100, which is a huge challenge but it can be done. Nobody would've thought he would've broken the school record twice this year, but Jeremy has done it."
Freshman walk-on Tyree Fort will join VanAssche in the 100 and is currently ranked fourth overall.
"There's a walk-on freshman ranked fourth in conference," said Kerr. "Tyree is another guy who is charged and ready. He comes to practice with a small on each day and he's in a group that really pushes him."
Fort and VanAssche will join Blair Bomber and Obi Nnadi in the 4x100-meter relay. The group is currently ranked second overall and their focus is a title and the school record.
"It's a very confident group and I like that. I like sprinters that have swagger. Three of the four of them are walk-ons and they have all the confidence in the world," said Kerr. "It's good quartet, they work well together. The chemistry is a big part of what makes that group successful and they're looking to break that school record on Saturday."
Senior Cody Humphrey will head into his final Big Sky Championship meet ranked third in the shot put and fifth in the discus.
"Cody is a shining star in many ways. He's put himself into a position where he's highly ranked in the throws and he exemplifies the character we want on this team," said Kerr. "I couldn't think of a guy who's more deserving of a conference title, and I wouldn't underestimate him."
This is the first time in nine years that Eastern has hosted the championship meet. Action begins Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time for the first day of the men's decathlon and heptathlon competitions. Those events conclude Thursday starting at 10:30 a.m.
The regular portion of the meet takes place the following two days on May 15 and 16. Field events begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, with running events starting at 2:10. Field events on Saturday begin at 10 a.m., followed by the running events at noon.
Admission is $10 per day or $15 for a two-day pass on May 15-16, with children 12-and-under admitted free of charge. Students of all ages with valid school identification will also be admitted free of charge. There will be no charge to attend the heptathlon and decathlon competitions.
Additional meet content, including interviews with event winners, photos, and top results, may be found on the following social media sites: Twitter: @BigSkyConf, @EWUTFXC, @ewuathletics YouTube: YouTube.com/EWUAthletics Instagram: @ewuathletics, @bigskyconf
All information regarding the championships, including a finalized event schedule, is available at -- http://goeags.com/15BigSkyTF/info