Despite redshirting a bunch of quality athletes during last year’s outdoor season, the Grand Canyon University track & field teams showed well, with the women’s team finishing second at the 2017 Western Athletic Conference Championships, and the men coming in third.
But this year, the move paid much bigger dividends.
The Antelopes won 14 individual titles and two relay titles as the small Christian school in west Phoenix swept both the men’s and women’s events at the WAC Championships, and have a strong contingent of 14 athletes in Sacramento competing in the NCAA West Region Championships that run through tomorrow.
“These outstanding men and women have been, and always will be, the foundation of our future Division I success,” said head coach, Tim Flood. “so the fact that it’s this group that gets to be the first group is pretty special.”
Flood was referring to the four-year transition period the school has undergone to step up from D-II to D-I competition. During that span, the program was ineligible for NCAA postseason participation. So this group is breaking new ground for the program.
This year’s squad, which included many returning from last year’s team that swept the men’s and women’s indoor WAC team championships, was strengthened with the addition of one of the deepest, most talented recruiting classes that Flood has coached during his seven years at GCU. Flood and his staff pulled in recruits from all over, including five different states and four overseas countries.
Based on their performances this year, there’s a good chance that GCU will be well represented at the NCAA National Championships at Eugene, Ore., in a couple of weeks. The 12 best marks in each event at the regional will move on to compete at Eugene, and GCU has a dozen athletes competing who are seeded in the top 12.
The ‘Lopes used an impressive team effort, and a few record-breaking individual performances, to beat out Utah Valley, which finished runner-up in both men’s and women’s competition. GCU piled up 254 points on the men’s side, 84 more than the Wolverines, while the women won by 19.5 points with a total 224.5.
The men showed just how deep this year’s squad is, finishing in the top eight in every event they entered. Sophomore Jesse Newman made the biggest splash when he broke the school record in the javelin, cranking up a throw of 68.91 meters to win that event.
Other first-place finishes went to Scott Marshall, who won the indoor title in the pole vault and then repeated the performance in the outdoor competition with a leap of 17’4.5″; William Winfield IV who finished one-hundredth of a second ahead of his CU Bakersfield opponent to claim the gold in the 110 hurdles with a time of 14.0; and Isaac Allanarem who clocked a 47.13 in the 400.
But the workhorse of the event for GCU was Ryan Girk, s senior from St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix. Girk won both the 100-meter dash in a school-record time of 10.11 and the 200 in 20.51. And that was in addition to helping the 4×100 relay team capture first in that event (40.55). He was joined by Dionee Marrero, Marcus Flannigan, and Guillermo Alcala Rendon. Flannigan, a grad student from Chandler High, also ran a leg of the winning 4×400 relay.
In the women’s events, Tarasue Barnett, a senior from Jamaica, put an exclamation on an impressive college career by setting a WAC Championship meet record in the discus with a throw of 199’03”, and then contributed a third-place finish in the hammer (164’08”) and a third in the shot put (49’01.5″). Along the way during her college career, Barnett also picked up the WAC all-time record in the discus.