DURHAM -- Predicted as merely a top-10 finisher, the BYU women's track & field team exceeded all expectations with a fourth-place team finish at the 2000 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. LSU won the team title, followed by USC and UCLA.
"I think we did an awesome job," said women's coach Craig Poole. "The kids who have been here before and who are mature got the job done for us in a big way. We figured heading into the meet that we would finish top-10, so we exceeded our own expectations in that respect. A lot of the big predictors and news groups picked us to finish around 18th, so we kind of made them eat their own words this week."
For the first time in school history, the Cougars had two NCAA champions in a single meet, as Susan Taylor captured the 1,500-meter title on Saturday. Her mark of 4:13.03 was a BYU record, eclipsing a 13-year old standard set by Julie Jenkins in 1987. Taylor started the race on the inside lane, and was quickly engulfed in the pack as competitors rushed to the inside. For the first three laps, Taylor hovered in the middle of the pack, before making her move in the last 400 meters. She passed the leader down the straight-away on the bell lap, and extended her lead through the finish line, defeating defending champ Carmen Douma of Villanova by more than three seconds.
"When I first went out I was pretty boxed in," said Taylor. "I was right where I wanted to be on the inside, but I was a bit further back in the pack than I had planned. It was a little scary for a while there, but luckily I was able to out-kick everyone to the finish."
Taylor's winning time improved on her qualifying mark for the Olympic trials by more than three and a half seconds.
"I just wanted to go out do the best I could for the team. I ended up winning and now I have a shot at the Olympics, so I couldn't ask for anything more," said Taylor.
The 10 team points from the 1,500 meters put the Cougars in second place with 46 points behind UCLA's 47 after 17 events. It also gave BYU its highest point total in NCAA competition, including all previous indoor and outdoor championships.
Earlier in the day, senior Kirsten Bolm finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles, setting a new lifetime best with a time of 12.93. After a trademark slow start, Bolm battled through the middle hurdles to push the leaders and contend for the lead. Joyce Bates of LSU was the eventual winner in a time of 12.85. Only two hundredths of a second separated the second- and the fourth-place finishers.
Sharolyn Shields was the last competitor on schedule for the Cougars, but was unable to score additional team points in the 3,000 meters. Shields placed 11th in 9:33.42.
In men's action, freshman Curtis Pugsley finished the day with strong performances in two of the final five events of the decathlon to finish sixth overall. Pugsley picked up 858 points with a personal best 14.93 in the 100-meter high hurdles. The Park Valley, Utah native added 880 more points to his total with a mark of 16'-00.75" in the pole vault. Pugsley, who just returned from an LDS mission in December, recorded a distance of 129'-10" in the discus (636 pts.), 153'-06" in the javelin (541 pts.) and ran the 1,500 meters in 4:45.91 to pick up 644 points in the final event of the 10-event competition. Pugsley becomes the first BYU All-American in the decathlon since Keith Robinson became an All-American in both 1986 and 1987.
Senior Marc Chenn failed to advance in the high jump, missing all three attempts at the opening height (6'-11").
PROVO, Utah (May 27) - The Cougars will be well-represented in women's action at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Durham, N.C. next week. In an announcement released Thursday night by the NCAA, twelve Cougars were among the official qualifiers for the championship meet. BYU's women finished in sixth place at the NCAA indoor meet in March.
Kirsten Bolm earned her first qualifying mark early in the season, when she leaped a school record-tying 21'-6" in the long jump at the Texas Relays, then claimed her second as she raced to a personal-best time of 13.02 in the 100-meter hurdles in last weekend's MWC Championship. Her distance in the long jump ranks her seventh nationally heading into the meet, and her hurdles performance has her 11th in that event.
Also qualifying in multiple events are senior Marty Hernandez and sophomore Tara Northcutt, both of whom are set to compete in the 5,000- and 10,000 meters. Hernandez moved into the No. 5 spot in the 5,000 meter rankings after running a BYU outdoor school record 15:59.86 at the Stanford Invitational May 5. She's ranked No. 4 in the 10,000 meters for her 33:21.52 performance at the Apr. 15 Mt. SAC Relays, just ahead of Northcutt's No. 6-ranked time of 33:40.06. Northcutt's other qualifying mark came at the Mar. 25 Stanford Invitational, where she ran a 16:15.67 to put her in 14th heading into nationals.
BYU's highest-ranked athlete is Susan Taylor, qualifying in the 1,500 meters with the second-best qualifying mark (4:16.58), a time which is also fourth-best in school history. Taylor was recently named to the district Academic All-American first team, and was the 1,500 meter champion at the MWC meet. Melanie Steere earned her NCAA spot by running the second-fastest 800 meters in school history, a 2:05.40 performance at the May 12 Cardinal Qualifier. Steere's time has her ranked No. 7 nationally.
In their first meet of the season, Laura Heiner and Sharolyn Shields wasted no time in picking up qualifying marks in the 3,000 meters. After the early success, in which fifth-ranked Shields ran a 9:17.71 and seventh-ranked Heiner followed in 9:19.37, the pair have been able to rest in preparation for the NCAA meet. Rounding out the distance squad is Laurel Hildebrandt, who took nearly a minute off her 10,000-meter time to claim the last qualifying spot in the event, coming in at No. 20 with a time of 34:37.69.
The 2000 MWC 400-meter hurdles champion and runner-up, Holly Gibbons and Milena Alver, ran the second- and third-fastest times in school history to qualify for the event in the NCAAs. Gibbons is ranked No. 11 with an altitude-adjusted 57.76, while Alver comes in at No. 13 with an adjusted 57.93.
After breaking the school pole vault record three times in as many weeks, Becky Jackson will head into NCAA competition with a No. 14 ranking and a BYU best 13'-0.25" mark. Her performance has also qualified her for the U.S. Olympic Trials in July. Also in the field events is Jeana Bingham, who cleared six feet at the BYU Tri-Meet May 6 in Provo. This will be the first-ever NCAA appearance for the ninth-ranked Bingham.
NCAA competition begins May 31 in Durham, N.C., and runs through June 3.