RENO, Nev. - The University of Nevada track and field team is preparing to travel to the 2011 Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships this weekend, hosted by the University of Hawai'i at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex. The meet will run May 10-13 and Nevada will be looking to upset Louisiana Tech, who won its sixth-straight WAC outdoor title last season.
It's a whole new meet for Nevada this season after it tied for seventh with 66 points last year. The Wolf Pack will be looking for its first-ever WAC outdoor title having won the Big West in the last season in that conference in 2000. Since joining the WAC in 2001, the Pack has won two indoor titles (2003, 2004) and a cross country title (2003) but is still looking for its first outdoor championship. The track & field team boasts the honor of being Nevada's first-ever WAC title-winning team in any sport when it won indoors in 2003. Nevada has been the runner-up at the WAC outdoor meet four times (2001, 2003, 2007 and 2009). Head coach Shantel Twiggs has led the team to two of those second-place finishes and was named the outdoor Co-Coach of the Year in 2009.
"I am so excited to see what this team does this week," Twiggs said. "This entire outdoor season, they have been like a really good book whose story gets better with every chapter. They started with a great set of performances at the indoor championships and have shown improvement every week of the outdoor season. This group is ready to do some amazing things at the outdoor meet this week."
The Wolf Pack's biggest advantage is its versatility. Nevada has the capability in scoring in virtually every event, and has powerhouse performers in events across the board. The defending champion Lady Techsters are strongest in the sprints and horizontal jumps. Fresno State, New Mexico State and Utah State will also contend for the title. Fresno State will be most dependent on its throwers. The Bulldogs currently have eight throwers ranked in the WAC top marks lists in the shot put, discus, hammer and javelin events. Utah State is another well-balanced team like Nevada with a strong distance squad as does New Mexico State.
"I feel like we are sitting in a pretty good position," jumper La Tijera Avery said. "Our team has come a really long way in its progression over the season. I feel like we can win it. We have a lot of good athletes and if we all come out like we are capable, we can do it."
The Wolf Pack boasts four of the WAC's top performances this year led by the current WAC Track Athlete of the Week in Samantha Diaz. Diaz has held the WAC top time in the 1,500-meters for more than a month and set a school record in the event at Stanford last weekend. La Tijera Avery currently tops the conference in the high jump, Alicia Echaverria in the pole vault and Constance McAlman in the discus, while second in the hammer. The Pack has the top two javelin performers in Sabine Kopplin and Marissa Hammond.
Angelica Earls is one of the Pack's best sprinters. Currently in the top of the WAC leaders in the 100 and 200 meters, she is also looking to move up the school record leaders in the same events. She is currently fourth in the 100m and second in the 200m in school history.
"Overall, I feel like I have come a long way," Earls said. "I have a really good chance at being in the top three and medal in all of my events. As a team, we're great. For us to win, it's going to be a matter of everybody doing their best, coming together and being a good team."
The WAC meet will start Tuesday and Wednesday with the heptathlon. This should serve as a strong start for Nevada as the Pack's Sarah Nichols and April Pate are currently second and third in conference the multi-event. The bulk of the meet will run Thursday and Friday, with the first field event at 2 p.m. (HT) with the hammer and the first track event, the 3,000 meter steeplechase, at 4 p.m. (HT). Live event scoring for the meet can be found at wacsports.com and all Nevada results will be available at the conclusion of each day at NevadaWolfPack.com.