College, HS athletes flocked to Sun Angel Track Classic

Track & field teams came from all over the country to participate in last weekend’s 31st Sun Angel Classic at Arizona State.  And it provided a ‘big time’ atmosphere for local high school teams.

Each college had its own reason for making the trek to Tempe.

Portland State was anxious to get away from the rain and snow they experienced the week before at the Willamette Invitational in Oregon, but they also wanted to compete against a tough field; they sent 12 women athletes and got a fourth-place in the shot put for their best result.

Central Michigan, one of the smaller entries, which competes in the Mid-American Conferenc, felt the higher level of competition would get them ready for the MAC championships and sent its top performers.

The University of Pittsburgh used the event to prepare their team for the Penn Relays and Big East Outdoor Championships at the end of the month.  The Panthers split their team between the Sun Angel and another event in Pennsylvania and got one first place in Tempe, winning the 1,50om run. Most schools sent partial squads so they could cover multiple opportunities on that weekend.

But Boise State loaded up the plane with 19 men and 17 women.  They came away with just one first-place performance, in the 3000m steeplechase, but it moved Sawyer Bosch into the leading spot in that event in the WAC standings.

Competition was fierce, as the event was laden, as usual, with ranked teams.  On the men’s side, there was No. 7 Auburn, No. 10 ASU, No. 13 Oklahoma, No. 20 BYU, No. 21 Minnesota, and No. 22 Kansas State.  The women’s field included No. 6 Penn State, No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 12 BYU, and No. 14 Auburn.

Nearly 2,500 athletes competed at the three-day event, but one performance stood out.  Arizona State’s entry in the shot put always draws the attention of the other athletes, as well as the fans, as they want a glimpse of the man before his college career wraps up next month.

Four-time NCAA champion, Ryan Whiting, came into the event sporting the world’s best mark in the shot put, 21.25 meters.  He not only won the event by almost 12 feet, but he broke both the meet and venue record set by Brian Oldfield 28 years ago.

Whiting is after the collegiate record of 22 meters set in 1995 by UCLA’s John Godina.  He’s literally inching toward it.  His best throw is 21.73m, a mark he hit last year at the NCAA Indoor Championships.  Enroute to that goal, he is expected to become ASU’s first shot-put Olympian.

Overall, the Sun Devils did well on their home turf, capturing six events.

ASU’s sprinters won both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, Brandon Bethke finished first in the 1,500m with a time of 3:43.77, and freshman Cristabel Nettey captured the long jump with a leap of 20’7.25″.

High school teams also got the opportunity to compete in the Classic, in Thursday night’s field events and Saturday’s running events, as they sought qualifying times for the state meets next month.

In the field events, the girls’ winners included: Liz Portanova, Chaparral HS,  in the pole vault (11’0″); Jasmine Todd, Chandler HS, in the long jump (18’1 3/4″) and triple jump (36’10 3/4″); and Hannah Carson, Chandler HS,  in the shot put (41’5″) and discus (128’6″.  On the boys’ side:  Riley Crosby, Centennial HS, won the pole vault (15’0″); Anders Battle, Desert Vista HS, won the long jump (22’4″); Zack PeschkeGilbert HS, won the triple jump (44’5 1/2″); Alex Barrett, Desert Ridge HS, won the shot put (51’7″); and Mason Simmons, Liberty HS, in the discus (127’07”).

In the girls’ track events, winners included: (100m) Serene Williams, Peoria HS, 12.08; Serene Williams, 24.92; (400m) Michelle Kreutzberg, Desert Mount HS, 56.76; (800m) Tess Berghoff, Arcadia HS, 2:15.87; (1600m) Kristy Rush, Highland HS, 5:06.  Rush’s time was a meet record for high school.

In the boys’ side: (100m) Breyen Miller, Agua Fria HS, 10.87; (200m) KJ Bowen, Peoria HS, 22.31; (400m) Dylan Hambright, Arcadia HS, 48.88; (800m) Jared Gonzales, Chandler HS, 1:58.38; (1600m) Garrett Baker-Slama, Corona del Sol HS, 4:23.45.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)