Relying heavily on the fleet feet of its sprint corps, the University of Idaho raced to victory Saturday in the men’s Big West Conference Track and Field Championships at Irvine, Calif.
The Vandals earned their first Big West title since joining the conference one year ago.
Idaho, which won eight of Saturday’s 20 events, scored 193 points. Runner-up Utah State scored 158-1/5. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo finished third with 128-1/5 points.
The Idaho women, last in their final Big Sky season, took fifth place, scoring 71 points. Utah State, with 138-1/3 points, edged Boise State (130) for the title.
The Vandals men won their fourth conference championship in three years, as well as their first since changing conferences.
“That added more fuel to the first,” said sophomore sprinter Tawanda Chiwira, who was honored as the Big West’s track athlete of the year after having a hand in four victories. He won the 200- and 400-meter dashes and ran legs on triumphant 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams.
“There was the general feeling we could win,” he said. “Just on the sprinters alone, we knew we could do it.”
Previously, the Vandals had won the 1997 Mountain Pacific indoor championship after claiming the 1995 and 1996 Big Sky Conference outdoor titles.
Although the 200 is not Chiwira’s best event, he blazed to victory with a personal best of 20.96 seconds. In the process, he defeated Cal Poly’s favored Kaaron Conwright. Teammates finished third, fourth, fifth and seventh to give the Vandals 27 points in the event.
Chiwira took the 400 in 46.22 seconds, defeating teammate Felix Kamangirira.
Conwright did win the 100, but Montrell Williams, Niels Kruller and Jason St. Hill gave Idaho second, third and fourth places.
The 4x400 relay team, anchored by Kamangirira, was timed in 3:07.65 to set school, meet and conference records.
“Everyone was equal to or beyond our expectations,” Keller said. “We did what we had to do.”
Idaho women’s sprinter Katharine Hough set PRs in both short sprints and while running legs of both winning relay teams. She finished third in the 100 and fourth in the 200. Another freshman, Debbie Ogden, ran a leg on both relay teams.
Jill Wimer, a senior from Grangeville, Idaho, was the team’s top performer. Although she disappointed by failing to reach the discus finals, Wimer won the shot put with a throw of 49 feet, 10 inches, after Friday’s runner-up finish in the javelin.