The Eastern Oregon University track and field team gave a proper christening to its first meet on its new track.
The Mountaineers compiled victories in 20 events — including 13 by the EOU women — to take the top honors in the EOU Team Challenge Saturday in the first track meet Eastern has held in La Grande since 2013.
“For the athletes it’s so much better,” EOU Head Coach Ben Welch said. “And the track runs well.... It’s just so much more pleasant to be at home.”
The wins began to pile up shortly after a pre-meet ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially reopen the track — during which EOU President Tom Inkso said the track’s return felt like it was coming out of hibernation. It was a fitting description, too, with several inches of snow still sitting on the infield and around the outside of the track.
Paige Dodd racked up three wins individually to pace the EOU women, who scored 284.5 points to top College of Idaho by 86 points in the five-team meet. Dodd took top honors in the high jump (5-feet-3-3/4-inches), the long jump (17-feet-2-1/4) and the 100-meter hurdles (15.82 seconds).
“It felt more relaxed because we were at home,” Dodd said. “It was really exciting to show everyone our new facility.”
Dodd wasn’t the lone multi-event champion for the EOU women Saturday. Maggie Ledbetter collected a pair of individual wins for Eastern, taking the discus (126-feet-9) and the shot put (38-feet-6). Elizabeth Herbes added a victory in the women’s 200 (26.36 seconds) and was on the winning 4x100 relay team with Payton Jolley, Kinnah Rhodes and Morgan Reddington, which posted a time of 49.77 seconds. Michelle Herbes posted the top time in the 800 (2:20.72), and Jolley was first in the pole vault (10-feet-11-3/4).
The Herbes sisters also teamed with Katie Emerson and Olivia Lane to win the 4x400 relay with a time of 4:10.84.
Also collecting individual wins were Emerson in the 400 hurdles (1:05.33), Victoria Branch in the triple jump (35-feet-0-1/2) and Makayla Akers in the javelin (126-feet-3).
The Mountaineers, though, weren’t only strong at the top of the event list, but also showed depth. Dodd’s win in the high jump was part of a 1-2-3 effort in the event, with teammates Cheyanne Collins following in second and Kalulusno Ngaida taking third, each clearing a mark of 5-feet-1-3/4. The Mountaineers accumulated several additional top-four finishes: Megan Boals was second (2:21.62) and Amanda Welch fourth (2:22.16) in the 800; Haley White placed second (1:09.52) and Emily Palmer was fourth (1:11.03) in the 400 hurdles; Danielle Church was second (38-feet-4-3/4) and Stephanie Miears fourth (36-feet-4-1/4) in the shot put; White placed third (16.18) and Lane fourth (16.68) in the 100 hurdles; and EOU had second-place finishes from Church in the hammer throw (136-feet-11), Branch in the long jump (16-feet-11-1/2), Kennedy Lake in the pole vault (10-feet-6) and Karianne Zollman in the javelin (122-feet). The Mountaineers added fourth-place finishes from Emerson in the 100 (13.72), Burgess in the 400 (1:04.89) and Boals, Kendra Blake, Faith Homer and Welch in the 4x400 relay (4:17.06).
“Everyone did really well, and I think that’s because everyone’s spirits were high and attitudes were really good,” Dodd said.
Allex Kosel paved the way to victory for the EOU men’s team by winning or sharing first in three events, taking top honors in the long jump (21-feet-7-1/2) and the triple jump (43-feet-2-1/2) and tying for first in the high jump (6-feet-2-3/4).
Jakob Sandhagen (185-feet-6), Moses McAninch (171-feet) and Dawson Kennon (165-feet-9) recorded a 1-2-3 finish to power EOU in the javelin, while Connor Young led a 1-2-4 effort in the 400, winning in a time of 49.66, just besting teammate Devin Lewis-Allen (49.73) while Cooper Shaw (50.48) was fourth.
Also winning was Lane Inwards in the 200 (2:01.23) and the 4x100 relay team of Branden Phanmaha, Corey Wockenfuss, Nicholas Griffin and Robert Simpson (43.60).
“(The competition) had the energy you expect a home meet to have that we’ve never truly had,” Inwards, a senior, said.
Inwards added that being at home and competing in front of more EOU fans and in front of other EOU athletes added to the drive to perform.
“(There was) a little extra incentive there to hold your own, (and) a lot of people did a good job with that,” he said.
In second were Lewis-Allen in the 200 (22.52), Darrian Walker in the pole vault (15-feet-3), Sandhagen in the discus (127-feet), and the 4x400 relay team of Shaw, Brennen LeBel, Derian Handfield and Lewis-Allen (3:28.21).
Adam Kopf took third in both the discus (126-feet-4) and the shot put (43-feet-0-1/2), Jeff Patterson was third in the 400 hurdles (58.39) and Inwards was third in the 1,500 (4:05.73). And in fourth were Phanmaha in the 100 (11.90), Wockenfuss in the 200 (23.11), Robie Swanson in the 800 (2:04.94) and Sam Roddewig in the 400 hurdles (1:00.22).
The EOU men finished the meet with 216 points to best College of Idaho, which was in second with 167 points.
“We had some very good performances and we’ve hardly been on the track (for the outdoor season),” Welch said. “They responded well to it. I was surprised by the margin of victory.”
The Mountaineers are back in action Saturday at the NNU Invitational in Nampa, Idaho.