Cal State Fullerton Men, CSUN Women Crowned Champions
The outcomes of the 2017 Big West Track and Field Championships came down to both 4x400 relay races as the Cal State Fullerton men and CSUN women #RaisedTheCup at Titan Track Complex Saturday.
Cal State Fullerton captured the first men’s title in school history for 29th-year head coach John Elders. The Titans scored 133 points to finish just ahead of second place Cal Poly with 128. Four-time defending champion Long Beach State placed third with 121 points, UC Santa Barbara was fourth with 117, and CSUN had 115 for fifth place. UC Davis (80), UC Irvine (75) and UC Riverside rounded out the men’s standings.
CSUN notched program title No. 10 on the women’s side – the third in head coach Avery Anderson’s seven-year tenure. The Matadors won by the second-smallest margin in the 34-year history of the meet, 1.3 points over UC Davis. CSUN collected 144 points to 142.7 for the Aggies. Third place UC Santa Barbara tallied 128.4 points while Long Beach State was fourth with 104.7. Cal Poly (84), Cal State Fullerton (63.2), UC Irvine (62), UC Riverside (58) and Hawai‘i (29) comprised the rest of the standings.
The championship culminated with back-to-back dramatic finishes as the winners were undetermined until the final race, the 4x400 relays.
On the men’s side, CSF entered the event with a slim one-point lead on Cal Poly – 125 to 124 – as the squads were seeded fifth and sixth with similar top times of 3:16:33 and 3:16:40. However, the Titan quartet of Marcel Espinoza, Luis Matos, Thaddeus Smith and Darion Zimmerman sped to a season-best 3:11.42 to finish in second place with eight points, while Cal Poly finished fifth (3:14.55) with four points. The four-point advantage widened CSF’s final margin of victory to five.
The women’s 4x400 relay featured two teams that were positioned even closer together, separated by a minuscule 0.7 points. The Aggies clung to a 134.7 to 134.0 lead over the Matadors. The closeness of the race itself mimicked the logjam in the standings. But CSUN’s Lexis Lambert nipped UC Davis senior Rochelle Nadreau at the finish line to win the race, 3:39.45 to 3:39.54. The first place finish gave CSUN a two-point bump over UC Davis for the final margin of 144.0 to 142.7.
CSUN utilized a number of other big-time performances besides the dramatic 4x400 effort to climb to victory. The Matadors captured four more golds on Saturday. CSUN senior Brianna Cueva, who won Friday’s shot put competition, doubled in the discus with a throw of 181-06. It was the second year in a row Cueva earned the discus title.
Senior Lexis Lambert, who redshirted the 2016 season, made that decision pay off as she won two events. She became the first Big West athlete to win the 200- and 400-meters since Cal State Fullerton’s Ciara Short in 2010 and 2011. Lambert ran the 200 in 23.42 seconds as CSUN’s first event champion since 2009. She then clocked a scorching and career-best 52.36 in the 400. That time vaulted her all the way up to No. 13 on the national best marks list, and obliterated her previous PR of 53.16.
Another 2016 Matador redshirt, senior Marie Veale, won the 100 meters by one-tenth of second over UC Irvine junior Persis William-Mensah. Veale crossed the line in 11.44.
The UC Davis women won two events on Saturday. They captured gold in the 4x100 relay for the first time in school history, pulling off the upset in 44.81 seconds. They entered the race with the fourth-fastest time in the Big West this season.
UC Davis senior Rianna Goins defended her title in the 800-meters as she used a late kick to hold off UC Santa Barbara junior Jenna Hinkle in a time of 2 minutes, 8.83 seconds.
A pair of UC Irvine senior hurdlers became the three-time champions in their respective events. Megan George won the 100-meter hurdles in 13.43, joining Cal Poly’s Willimena Cisco (2004-06) and Cal State Fullerton’s Lauren Wiliams (2008-11) as the only three athletes to win three in a row in meet history.
Lloyd Sicard finished his 110-meter race in 13.61 seconds to win for the third straight year, and join San Jose State’s Dede Cooper and CSUN’s Anthony Brown on the exclusive list.
In the women’s field events, Cal State Fullerton junior Bryn Williamson nearly broke an 18-year old meet record in the pole vault. She cleared 13-06.25 to break her own school record and just miss the Big West benchmark of 13-07 set by Cal Poly’s Paula Serrano in 1999.
Titan junior Laura Hamann became the school’s first triple jump champion since Anna Doty in 2001. Hamann won the event with a leap of 41-03.75.
Thanks to several crucial performances, Cal State Fullerton won its first men’s track and field title for the school’s longest-tenured coach in Elders.
Senior Darion Zimmerman contributed to three victories. He was the first Big West athlete to win both the 200- and 400-meters at the conference meet since Boise State’s Corey Nelson in 1999. Zimmerman took gold in the 200 with a time of 21.13, the first Titan champion since Marques Barosso in 2006.
Zimmerman then repeated as 400-meter champion as his winning time of 46.86 ranks No. 2 in the Big West this year. It was a career-best effort that bettered his 2016 time of 47.46.
He also participated in the 4x100 meter relay and helped his team to a win in 40.18 seconds, giving the Titans gold in that event for the second straight year.
Sophomore Diego Courbis picked up 10 important points for CSF in the 400-meter hurdles as he nipped UC Irvine senior Brandon Howard at the finish. Courbis won in 52.30, just ahead of Howard’s 52.56.
Cal Poly came tantalizingly close to winning its first Big West men’s championship. Junior Michael Giguere notched 10 points in the 5,000-meters as he finished in 14:46.09. Junior Garrett Migliozzi held off the rush of UC Santa Barbara senior Andrew Verdin on the backstretch as the Mustang prevailed in 3:54.34 in the 1,500-meters.
Two more athletes became two-time champions. UC Davis sophomore Kyle Clancy won the high jump with an identical mark from 2016, clearing 6-11.50. Long Beach State junior Vincent Calhoun also successfully went over the bar at 6-11.50, but Clancy won on attempts.
Senior Carl Nahigian continued the UC Riverside dominance in the shot put. Nahigian captured gold with a throw of 61-01.25, eclipsing his 2016 winning mark of 59-05.50. He gave UCR an event victory for the fifth time in six years.
UC Irvine notched three event victories on Saturday. In addition’s to Sicard’s supremacy in the 110 hurdles, sophomore Isaiah Jewett became the first Anteater since U.S. Olympian Charles Jock in 2012 to win the 800-meters. Jewett finished first in 1:49.96.
The Anteater 4x400 relay team closed the meet with victory in a season-best 3:09.19.
CSUN freshman Xavier Brown dueled a competitive 100-meter field and came away with a win in 10.59 seconds.
Long Beach State senior James Hubbard gave his school a win the hammer for the fourth time in five years as he threw a distance of 212-07.
UC Davis senior Basil Okoroike earned the school’s first triple jump title since Ray Green in 2010 and 2011. Okoroike posted a career-best distance of 51-07.00.
The Big West Athletes of the Meet both came from Long Beach State. The men's Athlete of the Meet was sophomore Kemonie Briggs, who won the long jump, finished second in the 400-meters and placed third in the 200-meters. He also helped the 4x400 relay team to a third-place finish and the 4x100 relay team to a fourth.
Senior Riley Cooks was the women's Athlete of the Meet. She won last weekend's heptathlon and added long jump gold to her awards haul. She also finished fifth in the 100-meter hurdles and seventh in the javelin. This is the second straight year that Cooks has received the Athlete of the Meet honor.
The meet, hosted by Cal State Fullerton for the first time since 1999, was televised on FOX Sports Prime Ticket.