T&F: Bearcats Return Home to Host Oliver Nikoloff Open
March 29, 2017

Bearcats Notes (pdf) | FINAL MEET SCHEDULE (pdf) | Live Results Link

The University of Cincinnati track and field program is set to play host to the 13th Oliver Nikoloff Open this Friday and Saturday in Cincinnati, the first of two home meets for the Bearcats in 2017. The Nikoloff will once again be held at Gettler Stadium on the UC campus with a pair of events - the hammer and javelin - taking place at nearby Coy Field. The meet will feature the hammer and the 10,000m run on Friday with all other events taking place Saturday.

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). FinishTiming.com will once again provide live results throughout the meet. To access the live results, visit Live.FinishTiming.com and select the Oliver Nikoloff meet.

Along with the Bearcats, 14 other schools will be represented by at least one athlete this weekend. Those teams include Butler, Dayton, Eastern Kentucky, Indiana (Pa.), IUPUI, Marian (Ind.), Northern Kentucky, Toledo and Xavier, who will have at least one entrant for both a men’s and women’s event. Teams with only one gender represented include Ball State on the women’s side and men’s entrants from Bowling Green, Marshall, Miami (Ohio) and Mount Olive.

Just like spring, home events will be in full bloom around the UC campus this weekend and fans are encouraged to plan ahead to be sure to arrive on time to catch all the action. Friday, baseball opens a three-game set with Tulane with a 6 p.m. start, roughly one hour after the 10,000m runs begin at Gettler Stadium. On Saturday, while the track meet will start at 10 a.m. at Gettler Stadium, three other Bearcats teams will also be competing near the stadium throughout the day. Also at 10 a.m. across the street at the Trabert-Talbert Tennis Center, the Bearcats will face Temple. Then, down the street at the Sheakley Athletics Center, the lacrosse team will face Butler at noon. Finally, starting at 4 p.m., the baseball Bearcats and Tulane meet for the second game in their series at Marge Schott Stadium.

• Tickets are not needed for Bearcats track and field home meets
• Concession stands will be open throughout the day Saturday only and will have breakfast items available in the morning while also offering 12 oz. beers for $5 all day
• The hammer and javelin competitions are not held at Gettler Stadium, but, instead, are held at Coy Field, located just off campus at the end of Coy Street (very limited parking available) - DIRECTIONS
• Results will be posted under the press box, which is even with the midfield stripe painted on the infield

This weekend’s meet is named for former Bearcats coach Oliver M. Nikoloff, whom dedicated 42 years of service to the University of Cincinnati as both a teacher and coach, including the track and field, tennis and soccer programs. Joining the University in 1917 and plying his trade through the 1959 academic year, much of the program’s record book was filled with his athletes’ names. A 1912 graduate of Oberlin College, Nikoloff was a standout athlete, excelling in basketball and tennis. Coach Nikoloff passed away in 1964.

This weekend’s event will be the first of two home meets in 2017 for the Bearcats. In two weeks, many schools from around the Buckeye State will invade Gettler Stadium for the All-Ohio Outdoor Track & Field Championships with action set for April 14-15. The meet will include the multi-events (men’s decathlon and women’s heptathlon) on both days as well as all other events usually contested at UC home meets.

  1 - Echikunwoke won the first national title in program history by taking the indoor weight throw on March 11
  2 - Number of school records that fell at the Raleigh Relays last weekend
  4 - Number of Top 10 program marks that true freshmen had a hand in at the Raleigh Relays
  4 - Number of Bearcats freshmen making their debuts this weekend
  6 - Number of marks recorded by Bearcats last week that rank among the weekend’s Top 10 marks
  7 - Number of the 8 seniors set to compete this weekend in their final home season with the Bearcats
  9 - Number of all-time Top 10 marks recorded at the Raleigh Relays
19 - Number of newcomers/redshirt freshmen set to see their first home meet action with UC
20 - Number of school records broken (2 outdoor, 18 indoor) in 2017
21 - The women’s team’s national indoor finish, the highest finish in program history and first time in the Top 25

Much like she did throughout the entire indoor season, Annette Echikunwoke not only put together a consistent competition, but also was able to find her way to the top step of the podium as she won the 2017 NCAA title in the women’s weight throw on March 11, capping a season in which she won all but one meet she competed. The two-time American Athletic Conference indoor champion in the same event, Echikunwoke opened the meet with a toss of 21.87m (71-09.00), which essentially won her the national title as no one was able to surpass that mark. After two fouls to close out the preliminary round, Echikunwoke was still in the lead and hit a toss of 21.81m (71-06.75), which also would have won the meet as the sixth and final round of throws saw the second and third-place finishers each pop marks of 21.74m (71-04.00), the closest anyone would get to the Bearcat junior. With the title in hand, Echikunwoke entered the ring for her final throw and upped her lead to 22.42m (73-06.75), her seventh throw of 22 meters or better this year, to put an exclamation point on her victory. She will make her outdoor season debut this weekend at home, competing in the shot put, discus and hammer (her signature event) at the Oliver Nikoloff Open.

With the title, Echikunwoke became the first member of the program to capture an NCAA title and just the fifth UC student-athlete to do so in any individual competition in Bearcats history. Echikunwoke’s title is the first for UC since Josh Schneider won the men’s 50 freestyle title at the 2012 NCAA Swimming Championships and the just the second crown won by a woman after Becky Ruehl captured the platform event at the 1996 NCAA Diving Championships. Echikunwoke’s finish also surpasses the previous best placements in program history that were held by Al Lanier, who was the highest national finisher for UC track and field with runner-up showings in the long jump at the 1972 and 1973 indoor and outdoor meets (four-time runner-up nationally). She also surpassed Kathy Klump, who’s fourth-place showing in the 800m run at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships was previously the best national finish for a UC woman in program history.

This weekend, five freshmen will be making their track & field debuts for the Bearcats. For the women, Katie Kravitsky will see her first action for UC while Hannah Markel takes to the track for the first time after running cross country earlier this academic year. For the men, Joshua DeJesus joins Markel as he too ran cross country, but has yet to run on the track (indoor and outdoor included) while both Michael Kochenderfer and Justin Tulloch are set to compete for the first time in their UC careers. Two other freshmen women also will compete outdoors for the first time in their UC careers after Katie Straus (indoor) and Marina Wrede (cross country and indoor) both have previously represented UC, just not outdoors yet.

Along with the five first-timers, 12 other individuals are set for their home debuts this weekend, including six men and six women. On the women’s side, junior transfer Ashley Williams will be joined by rookies Tiona Lattimore, Angelica Lightfoot and a trio of pole vaulters in Lily Bunse, Rachel Coghill and Allie Plybon. For the men, redshirt freshmen Mykel Chambers and Michael Vitucci will be joined by Austin Edwards, Jake Barnes, Aaron Deaton and Chris Province.

While many are making their debuts, the outgoing senior class is set for their final competitions of their collegiate careers. Of the eight Bearcats that are competing in their senior season, seven are set to compete this weekend with only Juliana Madzia not competing. Nicole Breeden is the lone senior woman competing this weekend as she will enter the discus and hammer competitions. On the men’s side, all six seniors will compete this weekend, including Nathan Alexander (400m/pole vault), Anthony Car (10,000m), Jordan Hardiman (high jump), Jarrod Hart (800m), Tevin Thompson (100m/200m) and Macklin Tudor (shot put/discus). The seniors’ final home meet is set for two weeks from now as they will help lead the Bearcats into the All-Ohio Outdoor Track & Field Championships that UC will host at Gettler Stadium April 14-15.

One meet into the outdoor season and we already have two broken records, both of which came in women’s relay events at the adidas Raleigh Relays. On Friday, March 24, the team of Madison Dunlap, Grace O’Donnell, Vanessa Robinson and Meg Westerheide combined to run 19:12.58 in the 4x1,500m relay to break the school record by 3.44 seconds, a mark that was set last year in the same meet. One day later, the team of Haisha Bisiolu, Tiona Lattimore, Juliana Puopolo and Aliya Barnes ran 1:38.15 to break the mark in the 4x200m relay that had stood since 2000. It marks just the third time in UC history that a team has run under 1:39 in the event. With those two records, the Bearcats have combined to break a school record 20 times this track and field season after breaking 18 indoors.

Along with the two school records, seven other marks recorded over the weekend found a home in the program’s all-time Top 10 ledgers. On the women’s side, the 4x100m relay team of Kellsa Mbah, Bisiolu, Bryana Robinson and Lattimore combined to run 45.20, the sixth-best time in UC history. Individually, Lattimore ran 11.94 in the 100m dash (#8), Bisiolu clocked a time of 55.03 (#8) in the 400m dash, Irati Mitxelena jumped to 5.81m (#9) in the long jump, Ashley Williams took over #7 in the shot put with a toss of 14.35m and Alexis Gray moved up twice in the discus to #4 at 48.67m. On the men’s side, the 4x200m relay team of Jimmy Brooks, Halen Witcher, Mykel Chambers and Nathan Alexander ran 1:26.14 to post the #7 time in UC history.

Of those nine Top 10 marks, freshmen had a hand in five of those marks, including four by true freshmen on the women’s side. For the women, Lattimore was busy as she is now #8 in the 100m dash after helping the 4x100m relay to the #6 time and the 4x200m relay to a school record while Irati Mitxelena is now #9 in the long jump. The lone men’s mark (#7 in the 4x200m) was secured with the help of Mykel Chambers, who is in his redshirt freshman season outdoors.

Lattimore was not the only Bearcats woman to have a hand in a trio of Top 10 marks as Bisiolu joined in on the fun. The sophomore joined Lattimore on both relays while also adding the #8 time in the 400m dash (55.03).

Alexis Gray had a very solid opening weekend as she competed in three throwing events and recorded personal bests in all three. She opened the day with a mark of 12.82m (42-00.75) in the shot put before she posted a pair of bests in the discus. After fouling in her first two attempts, she hit a mark of 47.85m, which pushed her up to No. 5 all-time after entering the meet at No. 6. She followed that up in the finals with an improved mark of 48.67m (159-08) to take over the No. 4 position and currently sit second in the conference. One day later, she improved her all-time best in the hammer, throwing the ball out to 44.12m (144-09), a nearly four-foot improvement.

Over the weekend, the Bearcats recorded six marks that ranked among the Top 10 of all results posted for the week across the nation. On the women’s side, the 4x200m and 4x1500m relays both ranked as the fifth-fastest nationally while the sprint medley relay ran the seventh-best time. Loretta Blaut was the lone individual Bearcat to post a Top 10 mark as her clearance of 1.73m tied her for the seventh-best mark of the weekend. On the men’s side, the sprint medley was the eighth-fastest in the nation while the 4x200m relay posted the ninth-fastest.

For the second year in a row, Adrian Valles closed out his indoor season with a fifth-place finish in the pole vault at the NCAA Indoor Championships, giving him a Top 6 placement for the third year in a row as well. The Spaniard cleared 5.45m (17-10.50) for his fourth overall Top 6 showing after placing fifth outdoors at the end of the 2015 season. Valles posted first-attempt clearances at 5.25m and 5.45m before missing his first attempt at 5.55m. With a pair of individuals already over that bar and a finish of no lower than fifth place guaranteed, Valles passed his final two attempts and took at 5.60m. Valles was close to clearing that height, but the bar did not stay up, relegating the junior to fifth place overall.

With their finishes at the NCAA Indoor Championships, both Annette Echikunwoke and Adrian Valles were tabbed as USTFCCCA All-America First Team selections. For Valles, the honor is the fourth of his career and the third in a row during the indoor season while Echikunwoke earned her second-consecutive indoor honor and third overall after placing eighth in the outdoor hammer last season after finish eighth in the indoor weight throw.

// IN THE TOP 25
Thanks to the 10 team points earned with her national title finish, Echikunwoke helped the program to its best finish ever as the women’s team tied for 21st overall at the NCAA Indoor Championships. With a previous best of 34th place in 2012, the women also earned just their second Top 35 finish and their first Top 25 finish ever. The women’s placement ranks as the second-best all-time when including the men’s indoor and outdoor placements behind only the tie for 16th place the men achieved at the 1973 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

The outdoor season continues for the Bearcats next weekend on the road as they will send a contingent of competitors to the Tiger Track Classic at Auburn, April 7-8. Prior to that, Alex Bloom will face some solid competition at the University of Georgia’s Bulldog Decathlon, April 5-6, in Athens, Ga.