Roadrunners win eighth consecutive conference championship on Saturday
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New conference but same dynasty.
The UTSA men's track & field team continued its unprecedented run of success on Saturday, as it rallied from third place in the team standings to capture the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Indoor Championship.
It marked the Roadrunners' eighth consecutive league title following their record run of seven straight after closing out Southland Conference competition a year ago.
UTSA, which entered the final day 19 points behind then-meet leader UT Arlington, finished the event with a school-record 159 points and that total was 22 more than the runner-up Mavericks.
Mike Medrano (mile), Ronson Small (triple jump), Kerry Thompson (high jump) and the 1,600-meter relay of Nate Brunette, Darryl Wyrick, Joshua Smith and Christopher Hall (program and meet record 3:11.68) led the way on Saturday with gold medals in their respective events.
That pushed the team's weekend total to a school-record-tying six when combined with Friday's victories by senior All-Americans Richard Garrett Jr. (shot put) and Tyler Williamson (long jump). UTSA now has registered 68 all-time individual/relay championships and 44 of those have come under the direction of 11th-year head coach Aaron Fox.
"I told the guys this morning that if we executed and did what we were capable of, we could win and the guys went out and performed like we have the last seven years," Fox said. "They really went after it today, and any time they faced adversity, they stepped up their game. The high jump and mile really got us going because we were able to finish first and second in both events and that really set the tone for the rest of the day."
"My assistant coaches once again did an excellent job of recruiting and getting the team ready for the conference meet. All of our success would not be possible without their hard work and dedication to our program. I also want to thank the senior class for carrying on our winning tradition and the WAC for everything they've done for us this season."
Following the meet, Fox was named WAC Coach of the Year, his eighth consecutive conference coaching honor, while Garrett Jr., who also finished fourth in the weight throw, was tabbed the league's Field Athlete of the Year.
UTSA's run to the title started when Thompson edged his All-America teammate, Keith Benford, for the high jump crown. Both athletes cleared 6-11 ½ (2.12m), but Thompson prevailed because he did not miss until the two athletes passed and the bar was set at 7-4 ¼ (2.24m). It marked the Roadrunners' sixth consecutive conference title in the event and seventh overall.
That drew UTSA to within 11 and the Birds quickly grabbed their first lead of the meet when Phil Steinert and Garrett Jr. combined for 13 points in the weight throw. Steinert placed second with a season-best toss of 62-9 ½ (19.14m), while Garrett Jr. recorded a measurement of 58-3 (17.75m) en route to fifth. That put the Roadrunners in front of UTA by two, 73-71.
The advantage swelled to 10 following a 1-2 finish by Medrano (4:18.85) and Nathan Collier (4:19.59) in the mile. The victory by the junior from Mission was the sixth conference triumph in school annals.
All-American Keyunta Hayes and Jonas Gutierrez contributed 14 more points to the team total in the 60m hurdles with their second- and third-place efforts, respectively. Hayes crossed the line in 7.97, while Gutierrez clocked a career-best 8.16, and the lead grew to 20.
The 400m was contested next and nine more points were added to the UTSA lead following a 4-5 finish by Christopher Hall (48.42) and Joshua Smith (48.47).
However, the Mavericks began to make a move of their own.
UT Arlington cut the edge to 11 with a 13-point performance in the 60m and they netted another seven following a 4-5 finish in the 800m, while Brady Hand placed seventh in 1:56.50.
The Mavs continued to chip away at the lead in the next event, the 200m. Clayton Vaughn's victory in 20.86 offset Brunette's seventh-place showing (21.30) and UTA trailed by just two points with four events to go.
UTSA was able to get the advantage back to double digits after Taylor Reed, Brock Barrett and Kyle Tomasini combined for 10 points in the pole vault. Reed placed third with a clearance of 17-1 ¾ (5.23m) and broke his program record in the process. Meanwhile, Brock added a foot and three inches to his previous PR with his mark of 16-4 (4.98m) en route to placing sixth, while Tomasini was eighth with a season-best 15-10 (4.83m).
The cushion remained at a dozen following the 3k, as Medrano (8:50.30) and Collier (8:56.06) neutralized UTA's 6-7 finish by placing fifth and eighth, respectively.
That set the stage for the fastest 1,600m relay clocking in WAC Championships history (previous: Utah State, 3:13.33, 2008) and the Roadrunners wrapped up the title with 15 points in the final event of the meet, the triple jump.
Small skipped to the second-best performance in school annals (51-0 ¾/15.56m), while Thompson finished fifth with a measurement of 48-8 (14.83m) in just the second triple jump competition of his three-year career (No. 3 on UTSA's all-time performers list). Roscoe Robinson closed out the team scoring by placing eighth (47-3 ¾/14.42m).
All told, the Roadrunners established four new program records during the three-day meet.UTSA will be back in action in two weeks at the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. The two-day meet is scheduled to begin on Friday, March 8, and Garrett Jr., who currently ranks third nationally in the shot put (65-9 ½/20.05m), will be in action at 3:15 p.m. on the opening day of action.