WKU finds success in lone home meet

UPDATED: The caption was corrected on April 13, 2011, to identify senior Cameron Aly as the runner leading at the Hilltopper Relays, not sophomore Brett Austin. The picture also ran in the April 12 print edition. The Herald regrets the error.

Lucas Aulbach

The WKU track and field teams were up against a familiar opponent last weekend for the first time this season — the heat.

But they also benefited from familiar surroundings, hosting the Hilltopper Relays on WKU’s campus.

The teams found ways to cope with temperatures in the 80s during their lone home event of the season, which also turned out to be the warmest meet of the outdoor season thus far.

“It was kind of hard to run a good time out here today, but we hid under the bleachers and tried to keep as cool as possible,” senior runner Rachel Friedman said.

The meet took place at the Ruter Track Complex, which was built in 2008 at the same time Houchens-Smith Stadium was renovated.

Head Coach Erik Jenkins said there are benefits to performing in Bowling Green, but it isn’t a big advantage.

“I think more than anything else it gave our team an opportunity to perform in front of our colleagues and compatriots,” he said.

The WKU athletes took advantage of their home territory and were able to put up some big performances in several events, including the women’s shot put and hammer throw. WKU took first, second and third in both events.

Junior thrower Monteka Flowers set a new WKU home record in the shot put with a winning throw of 48 feet, 9 inches.

In the javelin throw, junior Ignacio Guerra continued his recent hot streak with another first-place finish. The transfer from Chile holds the WKU and Chilean records in the event and is currently ranked the No. 1 javelin thrower in the NCAA.

“We had great performances all across the board,” Jenkins said. “Ignacio Guerra threw very well today. I was very happy with the outcome.”

The teams also had good showings in the 4×100 meter relay event, in which the women’s team took first place, and the men’s team came in second.

While the competition was made up of teams in the region such as Bellarmine, Eastern Illinois and Kentucky State, Jenkins said the teams included some of the better track and field athletes nationally.

“A young man from Eastern Illinois moved up to second place in the country in the pole vault on our track,” he said. “Whenever you start having those types of performances at your facility, then it warrants other schools to want to come and participate.”

While the teams were able to beat the heat, they also had to battle injuries. Senior runner Vasity Chemweno sat out with a bruised quadricep, and freshman Allison Riedling said she was just returning after suffering a stress fracture in her shin bone.

“I’m just coming back from an injury, so this is my second race in six months,” she said. “I’m pretty happy about how I did.”

Riedling stressed the importance of athletes taking care of themselves during a hot meet.

“You have to stay hydrated,” she said. “I drank like three water bottles before this.”

Jenkins said the program hopes to continue to host the Hilltopper Relays and will try to do so on the same weekend next year.

“We’re gonna try to keep it on the second week of April,” he said. “That way we can start a tradition and people know to come down here on this weekend.”

Next week the teams will split up and perform at a few different meets across the country. Jenkins said this weekend’s meet should serve as an important stepping stone to the Sun Belt Conference championships.

“Obviously we have a lot of work to do to be championship ready,” he said. “We gotta get healthy, but being at home, having good weather and having good teams helps in the preparation.”