Roadrunners win Conference USA Championship on Sunday
HOUSTON — All-American Keyunta Hayes swept both hurdles events and also ran the second leg of UTSA's first-place 1,600-meter relay team and fellow All-American Richard Garrett Jr. won the shot put with a school- and meet-record performance to help lead the Roadrunners men's track & field team to the Conference USA Championship on Sunday. UTSA scored a program-record 172 points in winning its fifth outdoor crown in program annals.
"I am so proud of this group, especially the 10 guys who sacrificed a year of competition last season," said Aaron Fox, who was named the league's Coach of the Year following the meet. "We put together a plan a year ago and to see it result in a championship is special. Everyone in this program, including the assistant coaches, put a lot of hard work into this and they worked together to make it happen."
The Roadrunners won a total of five individual/relay titles during the four-day meet and that pushed their all-time total to 60. Thirty-three of those have come under the direction of Fox, who is in his 12th season leading the program.
UTSA, which entered the final day of action in first place with a slim two-point lead over East Carolina, dropped into second after the afternoon's first event, the javelin. The Pirates racked up a combined 11 points in the event to go in front, 70-61.
Ronson Small then picked up five points for the Birds with a fourth-place finish in triple jump (PR 49-8 ¼/15.14m), but ECU's advantage swelled to 14 after it accounted for 10.
The 400m relay quartet of Aaron LeJeune, Nate Brunette, Darryl Wyrick and James Johnson passed the baton in a season-best 40.09 en route to fourth in the first running event of the day, but the Pirates' lead grew to 17 following their second-place performance.
The Roadrunners made up seven points in the 1,500m when Mike Medrano (PR 3:47.42) and Nathan Collier (3:50.32) finished fourth and seventh, respectively, but defending champion UTEP, which opened the day in third place with 50 points, pulled to within one of UTSA following a combined 13 in the event.
Hayes then won his first of three gold medals of the day in 110m hurdles after crossing the line in 13.98. Jonas Gutierrez came in sixth in 14.43 and that cut the East Carolina edge to six at 97-91. UTEP only scored one point to put it at 78.
The Roadrunners did not have a 400m finalist, so the Pirates and Miners were able to take advantage by picking up two and 10 points, respectively.
Brunette got UTSA back on the scoreboard in the 100m following his seventh-place effort (10.67), but UTEP was able to catch the Roadrunners and both teams trailed East Carolina, 99-93, heading into the 800m.
Both UTSA and Miners passed the Pirates in the half mile, but it was UTEP that jumped in front after scoring a combined 11 points. Eric Gosset (PR 1:51.22) and Brady Hand (season-best 1:52.45) finished fifth and sixth, respectively, and the Roadrunners trailed the Miners, 104-100.
The next two events — the 400m hurdles and shot put — finished minutes apart and they proved to be the pivotal moment of the meet.
Led by Hayes' second title of the day, the Birds placed 1-2-3-5 in the intermediate hurdles for a total of 28 points.
Hayes circled the track in 50.53, while Joshua Smith (50.64) and Jurmarcus Shelvin (51.29) both clocked personal records en route to silver and bronze medals, respectively, and it marked the second time in the last three years that the Roadrunners finished in the top three spots at a conference meet. Darryl Wyrick (52.67) completed the quartet in fifth place.
Minutes later, Garrett Jr. led a trio of UTSA shot putters that combined for 22 points.
Saturday's discus champion and league leader entering the weekend won his specialty event with a meet-record measurement of 65-9 ¾ (20.06m). His third consecutive school record added three-and-a-half inches to his previous standard from two weeks ago and he will enter the NCAA Championships Preliminary Rounds with the nation's seventh-longest mark. The Garland native finished the meet with a team-leading 24 points.
Meanwhile, Andrew Akens registered a career-best mark of 61-3 ½ (18.68m) en route to second place, while Jeremy Jones also set a personal record by more than two-and-a-half feet in finishing fifth (53-7 ¾/16.35m).
When the dust had settled, the Roadrunners held a commanding 150-109 edge over UTEP with just four events remaining.
Brunette extended the lead to 45 points with his fifth-place finish (21.33) in the 200m and the advantage swelled to 51 after All-American Keith Benford earned a silver medal in the high jump (season-best 7-0 ¼/2.14m).
The final event of the meet saw UTSA win its first 1,600m relay conference championship in a dozen years. The foursome of Smith, Hayes, Shelvin and Christopher Hall passed the stick in 3:07.80, which was the second-fastest performance in program annals.
The Roadrunners' 172 points easily topped the previous school record of 148 established at the 2010 Southland Conference Championships. UTEP finished second with 136 points and East Carolina rounded out the top three with 124.
UTSA will return to action in two weeks at the NCAA Championships Preliminary Rounds in Fayetteville, Ark. The three-day meet is scheduled to get underway on Thursday, May 29.