IRVINE, Calif. – Highlighted by five first-place finishes and multiple incursions to the program’s all-time top-10 list, the Air Force track and field team opened the 2011 outdoor season on Saturday, March 19, with an impressive showing at the UC Irvine Spring Break Collegiate Invitational in Irvine, Calif. Junior Rob Drye paced the Falcons with two improvements on the Academy’s top-10 list.
Drye won the hammer throw with the second-best toss in Academy history at 202’11”. Improving his own distance by nearly 15 feet, Drye bettered the field by four almost four feet. The junior was also the runner-up in the shot put, recording a personal-best distance of 53’5∏” – the 10th-best throw in program history.
Fellow thrower Paige Blackburn won the discus throw, matching her career-best distance of 153’4”. In addition to equaling the fifth-best discus throw in Academy history, Blackburn also accounted for the ninth-best hammer throw distance, as she placed sixth with a throw of 151’3”. In addition to her improvements in the program’s all-time standings, Blackburn finished third in the shot put (44’7”) and fourth in the javelin throw (134’7”)
Air Force swept the pole vault titles, as junior Tawny Lambuth matched her career-best mark of 12’1∏” and sophomore Cale Simmons cleared a career-high bar of 16’8≤”. Lambuth equaled the fourth-best height for the women, while Simmons debuted in eighth on the men’s top-10 list.
Sophomore Zach Wood rounded out the Falcons’ event winners, as he placed first on the high jump with a career-best clearance of 6’8”. Freshman Tim Urista was the top collegiate finisher in the javelin throw, placing second overall with a distance of 213’1” – the fourth-best throw in Academy history.
Air Force earned one top-10 incursion from the track, as sophomore Melissa Fuerst clocked to the seventh-fastest 3000-meter time in Academy history with a personal-best time of 10:00.55.
In addition to the event winners, Air Force had numerous strong showings from the field.
Air Force took four of the top six spots in the discus throw, headlined by junior James Cole’s second-place throw of 161’10”. Sophomore Brian Ford placed third (156’11”), while Drye and junior Sean Herbison finished fifth (154’7”) and sixth (151’11”), respectively. Herbison and Cole also accounted for top-six placements in the shot put hammer throw. Herbison threw a 162’7” to take fifth in the hammer throw, while Cole finished sixth with a mark of 155’6”. The pair also finished fourth (51’1≤”) and sixth (48’7π”), respectively, in the shot put, while junior Kyle Schwochow took third with a throw of 51’11π”.
The Falcons claimed three of the top four spots in the javelin throw. Behind Urista’s second-place overall finish, seniors Conner Van Fossen and Jon Santiago placed third and fourth, respectively, in the javelin throw. In their season debut, Van Fossen recorded a distance of 203’6”, while Santiago tossed a mark of 187’6”.
Air Force dominated the top of the women’s pole vault standings, accounting for four of the top six placements. While Lambuth won the event, senior Melissa Beerse, junior Kimber Shealy and sophomore Bizzy Mellado finished third, fifth and sixth, respectively, with matching clearances of 11’7≤”. On the men’s side, sophomore Rob Simmons finished third to his twin brother with a clearance of 16’2≤”
Freshman Regan Rogers was the runner-up in the women’s high jump, clearing a debut distance of 5’4π”, while classmate Tyler Jordan and sophomore Travis Smith posted matching heights of 6’2” in the men’s event to finish sixth and seventh, respectively. Freshman Kassie Gurnell placed fifth in the triple jump with a distance of 36’7”, while senior Christina Burke earned the same placement in the discus throw behind a toss of 145’11”.
Back on the track, senior Chris Severino and junior Manny Smith finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 400-meter dash. Severino clocked a time of 49.57, while Smith finished in 49.61. Smith also earned the same placement in the 200-meter dash, as he crossed the finish line in a time of 22.40. Freshman Cory Engel placed sixth in the 110-meter hurdles (15.32), while junior Bryce Bergman finished sixth in the 400-meter hurdles (55.41).
The Falcons remain in California to train during the Academy’s spring break. Following three days of training, Air Force will travel to Palo Alto, Calif., on Friday-Saturday (March 25-26) for the Stanford Invitational