Rams take home a pair of top-three finishes at conference championships

Mamadou Balde

In their last stop before the NCAA West Preliminaries, the Colorado State track and field team competed at the Mountain West Championships. The men’s team placed second overall after four days of action falling to the defending conference champion Air Force. The women’s team placed third while San Diego State took the top spot at the meet.

One of the biggest contributors to the men’s second-place finish was their dominant performance in the 10,000 meters. The Rams took the top four spots in the event and where led by Jerrell Mock who finished first with a time of 29:24.87. He was followed by Grant Fishcer who finished with a time of 29.35.20. Eric Hamer and Luke Giugliano took the third and fourth spots with a time of 29:38.14 and 29.41.47 respectively.

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men run the 4x100m relay race
Teammates Nate Gish (right) receives the baton from Ronald Sayles (left) during the 4x100m relay on Saturday April 7th at the CU Boulder Track Invitational. (Matt Begeman | Collegian)

All four times broke the previous meet record. The Rams are the first team in MW Outdoor Championship’s history to have the top-four finishers in a men’s distance event.

“Our men went one-two-three-four and all went under the 3k record at the indoor conference meet two years ago, and I thought that this performance was probably even a step above that,” distance coach Art Siemers said. “Those four guys at the indoor meet were All-Americans and the expectations were different. Running against two of Air Force’s best runners, I thought that Eric and Luke just stepped it up to another level and executed the plan perfectly. Our guys believe in the process, and when we have a plan, they always execute it. That’s the sign of a really strong team. You get a handful of these in your coaching career. This was a really special race.”

Autumn Gardner won the individual title in the women’s high jump by clearing a height of 1.83 meters. McKenzie Wright finished third in the same event with a height of 1.77 meters.

“The high jump was huge for us today,” coach Brian Bedard said. “For Autumn to jump that way in Greeley is one thing, but to jump as well as she did at a conference championship meet with really, really good competition says something about her maturity. To do that against one of the best high jump fields in the country really shows how far she’s come.”

For the third consecutive season, Mostafa Hassan claimed the crown in the men’s shot put. In his season debut, Hassan registered a mark of 18.72 meters to win the event. Austin Blaho placed third with a distance of 17.52 meters while his brother Alex Blaho placed fourth with a mark of 16.66 meters.

“(Hassan is) coming back from an injury, and he’s probably about 75 or 80 percent right now,” Bedard said.  “I saw good focus from him today, and he did what he needed to do for the team. He’s a team guy, and I respect that about him. Hopefully we can continue to progress through the NCAA first round and championships. He’s made good progress so far. He was a little bit conservative today, and that’s understandable given his situation.”

The final day of competition was highlighted by a performance from Cole Rockhold who set a MW record in the 5,000 meters. Rockhold won the event with a time of 13:55.36. He also placed within the top three in the 1,500 meters with a time of 3:45.85.

“Cole’s performance at this meet was probably the highlight,” Bedard said. “That’s an extremely tough double, and he beat a stud (Dillon Maggard) that’s tough to beat and was rested. He was all set up to win a conference title, and Cole didn’t let him have it. What he did today was inspirational to the whole team.”

Also earning an individual title was Jalen Hunter in the 110-meter hurdles finishing with a time of 14.22. He was followed by Garrett Lane who finished third with a time of 14.66, a new personal best.

“I’m proud of (Jalen Hunter),” said sprints and hurdles coach Karim Abdel Wahab.“He looked good in the final, and with how aggressive he was midway through the race, I knew that if he kept going he’d win. Seeing him win his first conference title…he’s a senior, so this was his last conference championship. It was sweet to see him get his championship.”

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Destinee Rocker broke the program’s freshman record in the 100-meter hurdles that she had previously set earlier in the year. Rocker also broke the overall program record. She finished second with a time of 13.21, fourth in meet history.

The Rams finished with 183.5 points in the men’s second place finish and 106.5 in the women’s third place finish. 29 Rams earned all-conference honors. Up next, qualifying athletes will compete at the NCAA Preliminaries from May 24-26.

Collegian sports reporter Mamadou Balde can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @mamadoubalde62.