The women’s track team had a historic performance in the first day of Big West competition on Friday, May 11. Seniors Taylor Fleming and Weslie Pearce both captured their second individual Big West Championships. Pearce received the championship for her performance in the 3000 meter steeplechase while Fleming earned it in the long jump competition. The two seniors became the fourth and fifth student-athletes in program history to win multiple Big West Championships.
Pearce entered the competition as the defending champion and the no. 1 seed, becoming the fourth person in Big West history to win the 3000 meter steeplechase in back-to-back years. Pearce’s time of 10:32.94 was nearly six seconds faster than the second-place runner.
Fleming’s long jump distance of 20-3.75 was the best the Big West has seen in 11 years. Fleming was the only competitor to surpass the 20 foot mark, surpassing her personal record of 20-2.50 which she set back in 2016. Fleming became only the fifth Highlander ever to win the long jump competition.
Senior Faith Makau also had a good performance on Friday, finishing with the fastest preliminary time in the 1500 meter (4:36.58) to earn a spot in Saturday’s finals. Makau also had the second best mark in the 800 meter which qualified her for the finals in that event as well. Sophomore Kenady Jackson ran a new lifetime best in the 400 meter (55.89) to qualify for her first conference finals event.
The women’s track team was in third place going into Saturday with 39 points.
On Saturday, May 12 seniors Makau and Pierce combined for three top three finishes. Makau’s second place finish (4:29.72) in the 1500 meter was the best by any Highlander. She also had a third place finish in 800 meter (2:09.35). Pearce took a third place finish in the 5000 meter with a 16:54.13 time. In her first career 400 meter final, Kenady Jackson finished seventh (56.50) Sophomore Natalie Mitchell set a new personal record in the shot put on her first throw of the day (44-4.25), for sixth place in the event.
The men’s team saw sophomore thrower Lawrence O’Hara finish second in the shot put on Friday, May 13 after throwing a lifetime best on his sixth throw (16.98). Senior Michael Kojin qualified for finals in both the 200 meter (21.46) and the 100 meter after posting times of 21.46 and 10.73 respectively. Sophomore Heinrich Van Niekerk and junior Ethan Van Setten both qualified for the 800 meter after finishing with times of 1:53.90 and 1:54.51. Freshman Quinn Williams also qualified for finals in the 400 meter hurdles event (54.62)
UCR’s men’s team finished Friday in seventh place with 18 points.
On Saturday, May 12 sophomore Heinrich Van Niekirk and junior Ethan Van Setten finished second and fourth in the 800 meter with times of 1:51.18 and 1:51.51. Senior Michael Kojin participated in the 100 and 200 meter finals and took seventh (10.79) and sixth place (21.81) in those events. The men’s 4×100 relay team of junior Erik Cisneros, graduate student Michael Kojin, junior Nathan Noble, and sophomore Carlos Wedlow placed fifth in the event after finishing in 41.22 seconds.