T&F: Music City Challenge Awaits Bearcats this Weekend in Nashville
Feb. 8, 2017

Bearcats Notes (pdf) - includes Notes, Results, Top Marks & Update Record Books

The University of Cincinnati track and field program is set for its final large competition prior to the start of the championship season as the Bearcats will travel to Nashville, Tenn., this weekend to compete in the Music City Challenge hosted by Vanderbilt inside its Multipurpose Facility Friday and Saturday. Many highly ranked competitors will be on hand as the Bearcats will use this meet to prepare for the American Athletic Conference Championships that will take place February 24-25 in Birmingham, Ala.

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 PTTiming.com (http://www.pttiming.com/events/87929843) once the meet begins.

Twenty teams will be represented at the Music City Challenge this weekend UC will face challengers from host Vanderbilt and the following other teams: Auburn, Belmont, East Tennessee State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kennesaw State, Louisville, Memphis, Minnesota, Mississippi State, SMU, South Alabama, Southeast Missouri State, Tennessee State, Virginia Tech and Western Kentucky. Several of those squads hold national rankings in the national Top 50, including women’s teams #3 Georgia, #26 UC and #30 Louisville, #31 Illinois and #43 Virginia Tech and men’s teams #7 Georgia, #18 Virginia Tech, #31 Minnesota and #49 Illinois. The UC men are just outside of the Top 50 at #54.

  1 - Echikunwoke’s current NCAA weight throw ranking (tied with one other woman) for the 3rd week in a row
  2 - Number of Bearcats ranked in the Top 5 nationally w/ Valles ranked #3 in the men’s pole vault
  3 - Number of Bearcats in the national Top 16, the cut point for qualifying to the NCAA meet (Bloom, 15th hept.)
  4 - Number of UC records broken over the weekend at the Charlie Thomas Invitational at Texas A&M
  5 - Number of marks in the national Top 10 recorded by a Bearcat last weekend in Texas
  6 - Number of ‘Event Squads’ ranked in the Top 30 nationally, led by women’s pentathlon at #7
  7 - Number of marks that currently lead the American Athletic Conference in their respective events
10 - Number of PRs Bloom recorded in the heptathlon over the weekend (all 7 events, total score, each day score)
23 - Number of marks recorded in Texas last weekend that rank in the program’s all-time Top 10
26 - This week’s national computer ranking for the UC women (USTFCCCA)
38 - Number of marks held by Bearcats that rank in the Top 8 of the American Athletic Conference
54 - This week’s national computer ranking for the UC men (USTFCCCA)

Apparently, things are bigger in Texas and Alex Bloom proved that as he had quite the weekend in College Station, Texas. The junior multi-event specialist competed in the heptathlon and recorded personal bests in all seven events to record 5,604 points, just 12 off the school record and only the second time in UC history a man has scored 5,600+ points in an indoor heptathlon. Along with the most points scored in UC history on the first day of competition (3,212) and the fourth-most on the second day (2,392), Bloom broke two individual event records, setting the new standard for the heptathlon long jump (7.19m) and the heptathlon high jump (2.10m), a mark that also set a meet record, surpassing the mark previously held by world champion Ashton Eaton. The conference leader in the heptathlon, Bloom now ranks 15th in the NCAA this season and his point total ranked as the eighth-best over the weekend nationally.

For his efforts in the heptathlon, Alex Bloom was selected as this week’s American Athletic Conference Men’s Field Athlete of the Week, the first of his career. The honor, which marked the fourth week in a row that a member of the program has earned a weekly award from the conference is the seventh accolade earned this season by the Bearcats. Bloom joins Adrian Valles (1/17 & 1/24) as men’s field recipients while Annette Echikunwoke (12/13, 1/24 & 1/31) earned three women’s field honors and Bryana Robinson (1/17) added one women’s track accolade.

For the second meet in a row, Adrian Valles not only won the pole vault competition, but he also broke his own school record. After raising the standard from 5.48m (2015) to 5.52m (18-01.25) at the Gladstein Invitational in Indiana on January 20, Valles returned to action at the Charlie Thomas Invitational over the weekend and took the record higher, this time clearing 5.57m (18-03.25). That mark currently ranks him third in the NCAA. Similar to the meet in Indiana, Valles cleared one of the top marks of the weekend and then went after a lifetime best as he asked for the bar to be raised to 5.66m. He was close to clearing the new height, but was able to keep the bar on the standards and better his all-time best of 5.65m that he cleared outdoors in 2015. Valles has entered four meets this season and has won all four, increasing his winning mark each time: 5.15m to 5.43m to 5.52m to 5.57m.

Annette Echikunwoke has entered the weight throw at five meets this season and recorded at least one fair throw in four of those meets, winning each. After smashing her own school record with an NCAA-leading 22.53m (73-11.00) heave at the Gladstein Invitational, she has entered two other meets and won each - the Thundering Herd Invitational and last week’s Charlie Thomas Invitational - with identical tosses of 22.10m. Her latest winning effort marks the fourth time in 2017 that she has recorded a 22.00 or better toss and is one of only two women this year to throw over that distance as she accounts for four of the five in the NCAA so far this year. The conference leader by 6’ 10.25”, Echikunwoke will be in a solid field of competitors in Nashville this weekend as she prepares for the conference meet in two weeks.

Rookie Tiona Lattimore had quite a meet on the track for the Bearcats in Texas. In just her second collegiate competition and her first on a banked track, Lattimore first ran the 400m leg of the distance medley relay and used a split of 56.5 to help the team finish fifth overall in 11:57.87, which stands as the fifth-fastest time in UC history. Then, on Saturday, she entered the 200m and 400m events. In the quarter, she ran 56.29 to turn in the 11th-fastest time in the meet and the ninth-fastest in UC history. She followed that up by running 24.28 in the 200m dash, a time that placed her 17th in the meet and #4 on the program’s all-time Top 10. Currently, she is the only freshman in the conference that is ranked in the Top 5 of both the 200m and 400m events.

Loretta Blaut made her season debut in the high jump at the Charlie Thomas Invitational and collected the victory as she cleared 1.72m (5-07.75) in the event. The returning All-American is set to face some solid competition this weekend in Nashville, including five women that are currently ranked in the national Top 40. Of those Top 40 entrants, co-national leader Tatiana Gusin (Georgia) and #6 (tied) Kandie Bloch-Jones (Illinois) are both entered into the high jump.

// RUN
Three distance women had solid weekends for the Bearcats in Texas as each recorded personal-best times in their individual events after combining for a solid mark in the distance medley relay. Meg Westerheide finished seventh overall in the 800m run in 2:14.04, which is a personal-best and the eighth-best time in UC history. In the mile run, Marina Wrede finished in 5:09.09 to record the 10th-best time in UC history while Vanessa Robinson lowered her PR by nine seconds as she ran 5:10.34. On the relay, Wrede led off with the 1,200m leg while Robinson ran the 800m and Westerheide the mile as the trio - along with Tiona Lattimore - combined to run 11:57.87, the fifth-best time in UC history.

The duo of Seamus Collins and Dan Huben both turned in solid performances in the 3,000m run as they finished second and third, respectively, in a tight finish. Collins took runner-up honors as he kicked toward the finish line and finished with a time of 8:27.38, his fastest this season. Huben also had a solid race, finishing just behind Collins in 8:27.90, which also stands as a personal best.

Once again last week, Jimmy Brooks added his name to the school’s all-time Top 10, this time moving up to #4 in the 400m dash as he ran 47.39 in a loaded field of competitors at Texas A&M. That time, which ranks him first in the American Athletic Conference, marked the second time this season Brooks has etched his name in UC’s all-time Top 10. He previously ran 47.78 at the Thundering Herd Invitational (1/28), which, at the time, ranked him fifth all-time at UC. That time at the Marshall meet was one of two fast marks recorded by Brooks as he also ran 21.59 to take second in the 200m dash, the #4 time in program history. Combined with his time of 6.86 in the 60m dash from the Gladstein Invitational, Brooks remains the only man in the conference to hold Top 10 marks in the three shortest sprints as he ranks #9 in the 60m, #7 in the 200m and #2 in the 400m.

In the past two meets, Alexis Gray has not only found solid placements, she also has found way onto the Top 10 chart for the program’s shot put marks. At the Thundering Herd Invitational at the end of January, Gray recorded her second PR of the season, finishing the competition with a mark of 13.45m, which placed her 10th on the all-time ledger. Then, last week at Texas A&M, she upped her PR to 14.04m to not only move up to #8, but also record her first marks of both 14.00+ meters and 46+ feet.

The horizontal jumping duo of Kellsa Mbah and Irati Mitxelena continued to post improved marks in their events over the weekend in Texas. Mbah finished second in the long jump with a PR of 6.01m (19-08.75), which moved her into a tie for second on the program’s all-time Top 10 list, while Mitxelena improved her all-time #3 mark in the triple jump by becoming only the third UC woman to bounce to a mark of 12.00m or better, finishing at 12.01m (39-05.00) to take sixth place.

So far this season, 42 total marks recorded by UC women found a spot on the program’s all-time Top 10 rankings with 16 of those marks turned in by true freshmen. Katie Straus holds four of those marks, including the #4 pentathlon 60m hurdles time, the #6 pentathlon score and pentathlon 800m time and the #8 pentathlon high jump clearance. Irati Mitxelena also holds four marks, including twice adding her name to the long jump (#7 and now #5) and triple jump (#3 twice) while Tiona Lattimore joined three lists last weekend in Texas, including the 200m (#4), DMR (#5) and 400m (#9). Angelica Lightfoot turned in a pair of Top 10’s on the pentathlon list, including the #5 60m hurdles and #5 shot put marks, while Marina Wrede is #5 in the DMR and #10 in the mile. Lily Bunse also is on the list with the #7 mark in the pole vault.

In the latest USTFCCCA National Computer Rankings (February 6), both Bearcats remained close to where they have been all season as the women held at #26 and the men improved three spots to #54. The rankings mark the fourth week in a row that the women have been members of the national Top 30 and the men members of the Top 60.

Included with the latest release of the national computer rankings was the release of the updated Event Squad rankings, a listing of ranks for each contested NCAA event comparing the best four marks of each school. The Bearcats have six squads ranked in the national Top 30 and are led by the women’s pentathlon, who ranks seventh overall. Also ranked in the Top 30 for the women are the shot put (#11), long jump (#16), 400m dash (#21) and high jump (#24). The men have one Top 30 squad and that is the #30 400m dash squad.

According to the world lists on Tilastopaja.org, Annette Echikunwoke ranks #7 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 5.57m in the pole vault is just outside the Top 20 listings.

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. Alex Bloom added his name to the list last week in the heptathlon, in which he ranks #15 this week.

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).

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.

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.

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.

Next week will be a relatively quite competition week for the Bearcats as only a small group will compete at the Buckeye Tune-up at Ohio State on Friday, February 17. The meet will be the final chance for athletes to prepare for postseason competition as the American Athletic Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships are just around the corner with the meet being held in Birmingham, Ala., February 24-25.