MONMOUTH -- Friday, the GNAC Track and Field championships saw 12 Western Oregon University athletes advance onto Saturday’s finals, scoring in five events and crowning a meet champion for the first day of the meet, held at McArthur Field in Monmouth.
Alani Troutman was the GNAC leader for the day, taking first in the long jump with 22-5, just barely making it past Elijah Castro of Northwest Nazarene, who flew 22-4.
During warmups on Friday, just before heading into the prelims, Troutman said he was hoping to get 24-6. While he didn’t make his desired mark, Troutman will still get to join his fellow Wolves at the NCAA DII Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina in two weeks.
Darian Wilson, a freshman, leapt to a third-place finish in the women’s long jump, posting a mark of 18-0 and one half.
On the track, the 800-meters run alloted for nine of the 12 Wolves that qualified for finals on Saturday, with seven in the men’s race alone.
Wolves won all three prelims of the men’s 800, with AJ Holmberg setting the tone by winning the opener, clocking in at 1:54.35. In the second heat, it was a one-two-three finish, with David Ribich leading the pack, and Curt Knott and Neal Cranston following right behind him in second and third, respectively. Dustin Nading, Josh Dempsey, and Thomas Normandeau also took a one-two-three finish in the final heat of the race, with Nading’s time of 1:52.69 established as the fastest time of the day.
“We had nine guys in the prelims, so it’s one of the few races we get to race with your teammates and so that’s something that’s really incredible,” Nading said.
After this weekend, it’s time to buckle down for Nading as he prepares to train for nationals.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s always a good experience, a lot of good competition.”
Nading will run the 1,500-meters with Ribich, adding a twist to the race.
“It will be interesting,” Nading said, chuckling. “(Ribich) is the defending 1,500 champ, I’m a defending mile champ, so theres a little bit of a friendly rivalry there; it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
This weekend was the last week of running on that home track for Ribich, sporting his trademark sunglasses during his section of the race before handing them off to Nading for his heat.
“Today’s focus was just to get as many guys into the final tomorrow, and just represent western Oregon as the powerhouse as middle distance for men,” Ribich said. “It’s really, really cool to just see the support from the community and the school, supporting us and our events.”
As for running in Monmouth, the place he’s called home for the past four years, for the last time: “It’s good. Just enjoying every moment of it,” he said. “Just kind of taking in these last few days of a home meet. Its just incredible.”
In the women’s 800-meters race, Olivia Woods took a first-place finish with a GNAC No. 3 time of 2:09.84 and Megan Rose followed behind for a No.5 time of 2:11.99, both of them advancing to finals on Saturday.
“Well, I definitely tried today to go in to just like, run it like any other meet, make it to the finals,” Woods said. “So I was definitely just trying to go in with a positive mind set, to have fun, to race competitively, and hope for a good finish – which I was really happy with. It was a really good race.”
In the women’s 400-meters, Grayson Burke qualified for Saturday by crossing the finish line at 57:85.
Sara Madden made it to the finals in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:03.47.
The final Wolves to advance to Saturday were Codi Blodgett and Cody Warner, with Blodgett running 11 seconds flat in the 100-meters and Warner sprinting 21.82 in the 200-meters.
Saturday, the men’s team took fourth place overall and the women nabbed seventh.
Ribich was named GNAC Track Athlete of the Week after managing to become the first male athlete of the conference to win four consecutive individual outdoor event titles after winning the 800 and the 1,500 races on Saturday.
In the 800, Ribich led a one-two-four-five-six-seven WOU finish, turning around in the 1,500 to lead a one-two-three-four finish.
These two races contributed for 61 of the 100 points the mens team scored.
Ribich posted times of 1:52.07 and 3:49.22 in the 800 and 1,500, respectively.
Nading was second place in both races, clocking in at 1:52.43 and 3:49.38, respectively.
On the women’s side, Suzanne Van De Grift took third place in the 1,500, locking in a career best and school record of 4:25.85.
Woods took fourth place in the 800 with 2:10.42, and Rose landed sixth at 2:13.92.
Kennedy Rufener made a dramatic second-place finish in the womens 5,000, scooting past Simon Frasier’s Ally Ginther by 0.33, clocking in at 17:08.51.
For the final event of the day, Burke, Rose, Van De Grift and Woods snatched up first place in the 4x400 meters, crossing the line at 3:45.82, establishing a new school record for WOU.
The team will head off to nationals May 24 through 26.