T&F: Bearcats Set for Texas A&M’s Charlie Thomas Invitational
Feb. 1, 2017

Bearcats Notes (pdf) - includes Notes, Top Marks & UC Record Book

The University of Cincinnati track and field team is set for action this week at the Charlie Thomas Invitational that will be held Friday and Saturday (February 3-4) inside the Gilliam Indoor Track Complex on the Texas A&M campus in College Station, Texas, the same site as this year’s NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. The Bearcats, coming off another successful meet over the weekend at Marshall’s Thundering Herd Invitational, are inching closer to the first championship meet of the season as the American Athletic Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships (February 24-25) will be just three weeks away once this week’s competition gets underway.

Along with a full recap of each day’s action that will be posted on GoBearcats.com, the team’s social accounts also will provide periodic updates, including Twitter (@GoBearcatsTFXC), Instagram (GoBearcatsTFXC) and Facebook (Cincinnati Track & Field/Cross Country). Live results will be available at FlashResults.com once the meet begins.

Unlike previous meets this season, the number of teams and athletes will be much smaller this weekend as representatives from nine schools will be on hand. The teams that are set to compete include host Texas A&M, Baylor, Cincinnati, Clemson, Houston, Rice, TCU, UCLA and South Plains (junior college). A majority of the teams entered into the meet are currently ranked in the USTFCCCA National 50 Computer Rankings, including women’s teams #10 Baylor, #26 UC, #32 Clemson and #44 TAMU and men’s teams #5 TAMU, #25 Houston, #33 Baylor and #26 UCLA. Both of South Plains’ teams are ranked in the National Junior College rankings with the men ranked #3 and women #5.

  1 - Echikunwoke’s current national ranking in the weight throw (tied with one other woman)
  2 - Number of tosses of 22.00m or better that Echikunwoke has recorded in the weight throw this week
  3 - Number of American Athletic Conference Women’s Field Athlete of the Week honors Echikunwoke has won
  4 - Number of marks held by Bearcats that currently rank in the NCAA Top 20
  5 - Number of marks held by Bearcats that currently lead the American Athletic Conference
  6 - Number of marks recorded by UC freshman that rank in the Top 8 of the conference
16 - Number of marks recorded at the Thundering Herd Invitational that rank in the program’s all-time Top 10
41 - Number of marks recorded by the Bearcats that rank in the Top 8 of the American Athletic Conference

Annette Echikunwoke has already had a solid indoor season as she has not only smashed her own weight throw school record a trio of times, but also surpassed the 22m barrier not once, but twice this year. Tied for the national lead at 22.53m (73-11.00), Echikunwoke won the Thundering Herd Invitational over the weekend with a toss of 22.10m (72-06.25), winning the event by nearly 6’ and defeating three other women that were ranked in the national Top 12 at the time. To put her two throws of 22+ meters in perspective, only one was recorded all of last year by every woman in the nation. That throw measured 22.14m.

For the third time this season and the second week in a row, Echikunwoke was tabbed as the American Athletic Conference Women’s Field Athlete of the Week this week following her showing at the meet at Marshall. The junior not only won the weight throw with a toss of 22.10m - the best mark in the nation last week - she also recorded a toss of 21.68m during the competition, which ranked as the fourth-best in the nation last week. Heading into the Charlie Thomas Invitational, Echikunwoke still leads the American Athletic Conference in the weight throw by 8’ 10.0” (2.69m) while also ranking second in the shot put (15.63m).

At the Gladstein Invitational (January 20), Echikunwoke broke the school record in the weight throw for the 10th time since the start of the 2016 indoor season and third time this season with her toss of 22.53m. With her three breaks this season, she improved her PR and school record by a total of 3’ 1.75”, going from 21.57m (70-09.25) in 2016 to 22.53m last week, almost a one-meter improvement.

At the Thundering Herd Invitational, Jimmy Brooks had another showing in the sprints, running 21.59 to take second in the 200m dash after running 47.78 to win the 400m dash. Those marks, which rank 4th and 5th, respectively, all-time in UC history, kept Brooks among the Top 6 in the conference in both events. Combined with his time of 6.86 in the 60m dash from the Gladstein Invitational one week earlier, Brooks remains the only man in the conference to hold Top 10 marks in the three shortest sprints as he ranks #6 in the 60m, #4 in the 200m and #2 in the 400m.

Last weekend, the Bearcats competed in the Thundering Herd Invitational and walked away with five event victories, including three by the women and two by the men. The women saw Brooke Catherine win the pole vault, Annette Echikunwoke take home the weight throw title and Naomi Urbano secure first in the pentathlon while the men saw Jimmy Brooks claim the 400m dash while Macklin Tudor was victorious in the shot put. Those results also produced several other superlatives as both Echikunwoke and Brooks set a meet and facility record in their events while both Urbano (by one point) and Tudor set meet records in their events.

The Thundering Herd Invitational gave four Bearcats a chance to compete in their first pentathlon of the season as all four women completed the five-event competition in just under four hours with three finishing in the Top 8 including Naomi Urbano, who won the event, and freshman Katie Straus, who took runner-up honors in her multi-event debut. Urbano scored a career-best 3,626 points to move up #4 on UC’s all-time Top 10 while Straus scored 3,515 points, the #6 score all-time. Urbano recorded personal-bests in four of the five events and posted marks that now rank in the UC pentathlon all-time Top 10 in four events while Straus added her name to three of those event lists. Maggie Loeffler scored 3,228 points to finished eighth while freshman Angelica Lightfoot was ninth at 3,218 points. Looking at this week’s American Athletic Conference rankings, the quartet now ranks first, second, sixth and seventh overall among league foes in the pentathlon. If those standings were to hold at the conference meet later this month, that would mean 23 points for the Bearcats in the team race.

When combining the number of scores/marks possible between the four women that competed in the pentathlon, the ladies, at most, could have posted 24 personal bests and 24 all-time UC Top 10 marks (six per women, including overall score and each of the five individual events). At the Thundering Herd Invitational, those four women combined to record 19 personal bests and 12 marks that now rank among the program’s all-time Top 10. Urbano (#4 all-time score) recorded four event Top 10’s (#3 high jump, #8 800m, #9 long jump and #10 60m hurdles); Straus (#6 score) recorded three Top 10’s (#4 60m hurdles, #6 800m and #8 high jump; Lightfoot posted two Top 10’s (#5 60m hurdles, #5 shot put) and Loeffler recorded one Top 10 (#9 60m hurdles).

Along with the four women in the pentathlon and the marks recorded by Jimmy Brooks in the 200m and 400m events for the men, two other women’s marks recorded at Marshall also found their way onto the school’s all-time Top 10 list with both coming in the shot put. Ashley Williams took over the #5 position in the event with her third-place toss of 14.91m (48-11.00) while Alexis Gray joined the Top 10 at #10 with her ninth-place mark of 13.45m (44-01.50).

The women’s distance runners had a strong showing at Marshall as 13 women compete in four events (800m, Mile, 3,000m and 5,000m) with nine times being recorded as personal-bests for their collegiate indoor careers. All five women in the mile recorded indoor PRs while three others in the 3,000m and one in the 5,000m joined in on the PR-fest. The races marked the first large group of competitors for the women since their impressive cross country season that included their best conference finish in 11 years.

In the latest USTFCCCA National Computer Rankings, both Bearcats teams slipped a few rungs on the national ladders this week with the women slipping one position to #26 while the men fell seven spots to #57. Regionally (Great Lakes Region), the women slipped two spots to #8 this week while the men remained at #12.

The first USTFCCCA Event Squad Rankings also were released this week. Despite many of the results from the Thundering Herd Invitational not being included in this week’s squad rankings, the Bearcats still have several groups ranked nationally. Event squads are made up of the Top 4 marks recorded individually this season and combined to form a squad. For instance, taking the four pentathlon scores from over the weekend, the Bearcats squad of Urbano (3,626), Straus (3,515), Loeffler (3,228) and Lightfoot (3,218) would combine for a score of 13,587 (3,397 average), which ranks them seventh nationally. Other groups in the Top 50 for UC include the men’s 400m dash (43rd), the women’s long jump (13th), the women’s 400m dash (31st) and the women’s 60m dash (46th).

According to the world lists on Tilastopaja.org, Annette Echikunwoke still ranks #4 in the world in the women’s weight throw (22.53m), which keeps her at #22 on the all-time Top 50 listing as well. Echikunwoke is the lone Bearcat on the world list this week as Adrian Valles’ clearance of 5.52m in the pole vault has slipped outside of the Top 20.

A total of 19 marks recorded by the Bearcats this season are currently ranked among the Top 100 in the NCAA with four of those marks sitting among the Top 20. Annette Echikunwoke leads the way at #1 (tie) in the weight throw for the women while the men’s high mark comes from Adrian Valles, who is #3 in the pole vault.

On the strength of several strong showings at the Gladstein Invitational, the January 24 release of the USTFCCCA National Computer Rankings revealed a bit of history for the Bearcats as the UC women moved up to #25 in the nation while the men climbed to #50, a record ranking for both teams. For the women, the ranking is their 10th week in a row as a member of the Top 50 with the #25 position bettering their previous record-high of #28, which they received in Week 1 last year. The men recorded their record-high for the second week in a row after opening the preseason at #52, which bettered the #65 ranking record from Week 5 in 2012.

Adrian Valles was on fire at the Gladstein Invitational January 20 as the junior made short work of the field in the pole vault before setting his sights on taking down records. After easily clearing 5.10m and 5.30m on successive attempts, Valles had the bar raised to 5.52m (18-01.25), which he cleared on his third attempt. With that clearance, he moved into the top spot on the NCAA list (another athlete cleared 5.53m the next day to push Valles to #2). From there, he asked for the bar to be raised to 5.66m, which was 1cm above his lifetime best of 5.66m. Although he didn’t clear the final height, he did have several solid attempts and looks ready to go higher this season.

Sergio Acera had a strong showing at the Gladstein Invitational (January 20-21) as the junior swept the horizontal jumps with victories in the triple jump and the long jump in Indiana. On Friday night, Acera captured the triple jump with a best of 14.62m (47-11.75), which not only is a PR, but also stands as the sixth-best bounce in program history. The next day, he returned to the runway and won the long jump with a best of 7.24m (23-09.00). Although it was under his season and career-bests, he did enough to win the event.

Kellsa Mbah competed in a pair of events at the Gladstein Invitational (January 20-21) and turned in all-time Top 10 marks in both for the Bearcats. First, she took to the track in the 60m dash, running 7.59 in both the preliminary and final rounds to finish third overall and record the fourth-best (tie) time in program history. Then, one day later, she won the long jump with a leap of 6.00m (19-08.25) to take the lead in the conference and move up to #3 on UC’s all-time list. The outdoor school record holder, Mbah is now just the third UC woman to post a jump in the 6 meter distance in program history.

Along with the marks recorded by Acera (TJ), Brooks (60m, 600m), Echikunwoke (WT), Mbah (60m, LJ) and Valles (PV), five other Bearcats turned in marks that also ranked among the program’s all-time Top 10 at the Gladstein Invitational (January 20-21). For the women, Bryana Robinson and Haisha Bisiolu moved up in the 200m dash as they ran the third (24.24) and sixth-fastest (24.47) times, respectively, while junior transfer Ashley Williams added her name to the shot put list at #7 with a toss of 14.70m (48-02.75) and rookie Irati Mitxelena added her name to the triple jump list at #3 with a bounce of 11.98m (39-03.75). On the men’s side, Macklin Tudor improved his #4 all-time mark in the weight throw with his toss of 17.98m (59-00.00).

On January 9, Student-Athlete Support Services (S.A.S.S.) released numbers on the academic successes of the UC Athletics Department with the track & field/cross country program well represented. As a team, the men’s side combined to post a cumulative GPA of 3.604, the highest of any men’s team on campus. Sixty Bearcats (28 men, 32 women) achieved Bearcats Honor Roll status by recording a 3.0 or better GPA. Of that group, 38 (16M/22W) were selected for the Dean’s List by posting a 3.4 or better GPA while eight Bearcats (4M/4W) were recognized as TopCats, a distinction given to those that carry a 4.0 GPA in the semester. The eight TopCats include: Sergio Acera, James Toner, Adrian Valles and Ben Wollenslegel for the men and the group of Nicole Breeden, Juliana Madzia, Grace O’Donnell and Tessa Ward for the women.

The American Athletic Conference announced its weekly award winners on December 13 with Annette Echikunwoke being tabbed as the Female Field Athlete of the Week following an impressive season-opening performance at Indiana’s Hoosier Open on December 9. In that meet, Echikunwoke broke her own school record twice as she won the weight throw with a toss of 21.76m (71-04.75) and took second in the shot put with a career-best 15.63m (51-03.50) toss. The junior’s mark in the weight throw is currently ranked first in the NCAA and places her third on the world list... For their efforts, both Robinson and Valles earned weekly honors from the American Athletic Conference as they were named the women’s track and men’s field athletes of the week, respectively (Jan. 17). It is the first honors for each individual this season and brings UC’s season total to three awards after Annette Echikunwoke earned the women’s field honor in mid-December following the Hoosier Open.

At the end of the 2016 indoor season, four Bearcats claimed All-America honors with three of those individual set to return in 2017. The USTFCCCA All-America First Team honorees for the Bearcats last season were Adrian Valles in the men’s pole vault and women’s competitors Annette Echikunwoke (weight throw) and Erika Hurd (high jump). Loretta Blaut also garnered USTFCCCA All-America Second Team honors in the high jump as well. Of those four Bearcats, only Hurd will not return this year as she graduated from UC following the Spring 2016 semester.

The Bearcats will next travel to Nashville, Tenn., next weekend to take part in the Music City Challenge, a meet that will be hosted by Vanderbilt February 10-11. The meet will be the final major event for the Bearcats ahead of the conference meet as only a small group will take part in the Buckeye Tune-up on February 17.