Lightning and rain forced a delay Saturday evening of the Pac-12 Track and Field Championships at the UA’s Drachman Stadium, but not before Jordan Geist won his second straight conference championship in the shot put.
Meet officials were keeping their eye on the weather late Saturday when the Star went to press. They were hoping to finish heats in the 100 meters and finals in the 300-meter steeplechase and long jump.
The meet had proceeded smoothly until 7 p.m. At that time, announcer Paul Merca directed the crowd to evacuate the stadium immediately under a “lightning protocol.” Fans filed out, some in disbelief over the change in the weather that had been so pleasant just an hour before.
By then, Geist had done his work.
First, the sophomore from western Pennsylvania claimed third place in the hammer throw. Entering the hammer circle at midday, he spun around, gathered his speed and strength and flung the chain and 16-pound iron ball 218 feet, 10 inches. Teammate Grayson Fleming finished fifth in 213-4.
A few hours later, Geist successfully defended the shot put title he won last year at Stanford. On Saturday, he won by powering the 16-pound shot 69-2. He holds the NCAA’s best throw this year at 70-10.
Geist accounted for 16 points and Flemings four. A seventh place last weekend by decathlete Dominic Gehr earned two points for the Wildcats, giving Arizona a total of 22 points when the meet came to a halt.
With four of the 21 events finished at the Star’s press time, UCLA’s men were way ahead with 40 points, followed by Oregon with 24, Arizona 22, California 18 and Washington 18.
The women’s competition Saturday consisted largely of preliminary running heats. Most of the field events, other than the throws, were just starting when the lightning began in the far southern skies.
The meet began under near-perfection conditions with temperatures in the 80s heading downward into the 70s.
In the first preliminary heat, the USC women’s 4x100 relay team broke the stadium record by sprinting around the oval track in 42.44.
Arizona freshman Neysia Howard put on a burst of steam on the anchor leg to finish second in the heat and fourth overall. Running the first three legs of the relay and qualifying for the final were Tiana Bonds, Tatum Waggoner and Pamela White.
UA middle-distance star Carlos Villarreal qualified for the final in the 1,500-meter run, placing fifth in the 1,500 in 3:49.70.
Wildcat head coach Fred Harvey and distance coach James Li had planned to have Villarreal run in both the 1,500 and the 800 meters.
Because of the delay in the meet, it was not known whether that plan would still be effective.
William Paulson of ASU recorded the fastest time Saturday in the 1,500 at 3:46.17. The Sun Devil senior and Grant Fisher, a Stanford senior, have the chops to offer stiff competition to Villarreal, a red-shirt junior.
Heats in the 100-meter dash were under way when the delay was called.
Last year, Geist muscled his way to victory in the shot put and discus and a seventh in the hammer throw, tallying 22 points for the men’s team. He will next compete in the discus.
- Attendance was announced at 2,423 with fans filling most of the West bleachers. A long line queued along Plumer Avenue waiting to get tickets.
- The Wildcats have three volunteer assistant coaches who provide tutoring and inspiration to the UA athletes — veteran distance runner Bernard Lagat and 400-meter hurdle specialists Georganne Moline and Sage Watson. Moline and Watson are training with Harvey’s for the World Championships in the fall.
- The USC women defeated Oregon in last year’s conference championships and went on to win the national championship.
- The Oregon men have captured the men’s conference title 12 straight years.