As dominant as the track and field team has been outdoors, the indoor conference title had proven to be the one prize they couldn’t win.
Until last week.
The Wolverines dominated en route to their first-ever GWC Indoor Championship, with the men’s and women’s teams both winning by over 100 team points. After seven combined outdoor championships, the elusive indoor honor provided all the motivation the team needed.
“We have won the cross country, we’ve won the outdoor, and not to win the indoor’s always been something that’s been bugging us,” Houle said. “When the kids went in, they had that goal. They wanted to get that off their goal list and win the indoor championships, so they came in very focused. They understood what they had to do.”
In the end, the Wolverines did that and more, toaking nearly every major award home while leaving behind a string of broken school records in the process.
Zandrea Nelson was named Female Athlete of the Championship after taking first in the 400 meters (56.78 seconds) and the 4×400 relay (3:53.71). Michael McPherson took the Male Athlete award after finishing tops in the long jump (23-0), 4×400 relay (3:22.56) and second in the heptathlon (4,681).
Houle was named Coach of the Year, while Rusty Jones earned Newcomer of the Year honors. Jones took first in the high jump (6-9) and heptathlon, beating out teammate McPherson by 118 points.
Meanwhile Matt Williams’ 15-feet, 3-inch effort at the pole vault snapped a 14-year school record, with Joshua MCabe (5000 meters, 14:39.17) and Ali Shields (triple jump, 36-3) also setting new program marks.
The championship marked the third time this season Shields has broken the triple jump record, a feat Houle credits for the increased workout regimes all the athletes are undergoing since transitioning from high school to college.
“Ali’s just sort of learning this event. She did it in high school, but it was mainly just go out and jump,” Houle said. “Now she’s doing technical work and strength work. That goes across the board. All of our athletes , we’re slowly teaching them the events. They’re learning and getting stronger with their weight-lifting routines.”
Despite the Wolverines’ dominant performance last week, Houle thinks the best results are yet to come in the outdoor portion of the season.
“We really haven’t gotten into anything to start making them peak yet,” Houle said. “With them just doing their work on their own, weightlifting and getting their workouts in there, they’re bodies are really responding well. Mentally, they’re prepared. They’ve set some personal goals that they’re really eager to obtain. Hopefully when we start going into a peak phase [in the outdoor season], we start seeing better and better performances.”
The men’s and women’s teams began the outdoor season Saturday at the UNLV Classic held in Las Vegas, Nev.
By Matt Petersen