With fans, coaches and student athletes scattered around the UC Riverside track, the Highlanders hosted the 2015 Big West Championships for the first time in the school’s Division I history. Curious gym-goers glanced over the chain-link fences as the starting gun sounded and some of the very best runners in the Big West vied for a chance to participate in the NCAA West Regionals. Eight teams were represented at the championships with Long Beach State winning the men’s competition (185 points) and Cal State Northridge nabbing the women’s team title (212 points). UCR’s men’s team finished in seventh place (63) and the women, fifth (69).
Michael Koger was the breakout star for the Highlanders over the weekend. Already favored entering the event, Koger won the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 51.73. Koger improved upon his West Preliminary Regional mark of 52.87 in 2014 and won his second title in three years, having claimed the individual championship in 2013 as well. Teammate Zachary Lewis finished four spots behind with a time of 52.07. In the men’s 5000, distance runner Seth Totten’s time of 14:48.38 was good enough for seventh place. Michael Harris also tallied a fourth-place finish in the long jump. Cody Jordan earned a fifth-place finish in the men’s 1500 with a time of 3:55.74.
The women’s team did not nab an individual title during the championships, but the blue and gold recorded a plethora of second-place finishes. Fielders Vesta Bell (hammer throw) and Breana Jemison (shot put) continued their successful seasons with runner-up honors. 800 runner Faith Makau (2:08.15) and the women’s 4×400 relay team of Noelle Abboud, Asha Giles, Raquel Hefflin and Amber Wright (3:40.38) each earned respectable results. Heflin (4:19.23) also finished with the third-best time in the women’s 1500.
The CSUN women and Long Beach State men each earned their ninth overall Big West team championships. The Matadors continued their run of excellence in the event, winning seven of the last 10 titles. The 49ers notched their third consecutive title, fourth in the last five years and six of the last 10.
The qualifying Highlanders who have yet to be determined will next head to the NCAA Preliminary West Regionals, set to begin May 26 in Eugene, Oregon.