Courtesy of Big West Championship
Courtesy of Big West Championship

The UC Riverside track and field team brought home five individual championship titles over the weekend as they competed in the Big West Track and Field Championships on May 10-11 at Cal State Northridge. Televised live on FSN Prime Ticket, the two-day event featured the best track athletes in the conference with the winners advancing to the NCAA First Round Championships in Austin, Texas.

The jumpers were the driving force that kick-started the weekend for the Highlanders as long jumpers Ted Hooper and Phoenisha Schuhmeier leapt to first place finishes in each of their respective events. For freshman Schuhmeier, it was her first Big West crown and she earned it by beating her previous personal best by nearly six inches, 5.99m (19’ 8.00”). Hooper, who was named Big West Male Field Athlete of the Week in April, defended his championship from a year ago with an impressive leap of 7.82m (25’ 8.00”). His mark topped the previous university record held by UC Riverside Athletics Hall of Famer Don Barfield in 1972.

The last day of the tournament saw three more Riverside athletes stand atop the podium. Ryan Swafford repeated as back-to-back champion in the triple jump with a distance of 15.96m (52’ 4.50”) while Michael Koger powered through the competition to capture his first conference championship in the 400m hurdles with a time of 51.36. On the field, senior Travis Smith repeated as shot put champion clearing a distance of 18.38m (60’ 3.75”).

On the women’s side, Deja Watkins claimed the runner-up spot in the women’s discus with a distance of 49.00m (160’ 9”) while Damajeria Dubose was two tenths of a second away from a conference title, finishing in second place in the 1500 meters with a time of 4:28.93. Highlanders Raquel Hefflin (2:08.04) and Alisha Brown (2:08.61) finished the 800m in third and fourth place, respectively.

Competing as the lone UCR representative in the women’s 400 meters, Amber Wright ran a personal best time of 54.90 for fifth place, a two-spot improvement from her qualifying heat effort. Jzsanette Lindstrom (sixth in 5,000m), Jacquelyn DuBois (eighth in triple jump) and Breana Jemison (fourth in shot put and eighth in discus) all competed admirably for the Highlanders as the women’s 4×400 team of Noelle Abboud, Dubose, Brown and Wright ran the sixth best time in university history (3:43.27) for sixth place. Jazmine Lewis, brimming with confidence from her second-place finish in the heptathlon last week, cleared a new personal best of 14.57m (47’ 9.75”) for eighth place in the high jump.

On the men’s side, Hernell Dyer (100 meters), Justin Harris (200 meters) and Carl Nahigan (shot put) all finished in fifth place for each respective event while the men’s 4×400 meter team sprinted to a top five finish with a time of 3:16.06. In men’s discus, Travis Smith posted a solid third place performance with a hurl of 51.80m (169’ 11”) as teammate Chima Ikeme (seventh place) threw a distance of 48.65 meters, which was one inch off of his personal best. Hooper, competing in the long jump, hopped to a new personal best with a 14.48m (47’ 6.25”) effort, which was seventh best in the event.

Long Beach State won the men’s team title while UC Davis claimed the women’s side. The 49ers nabbed their seventh title and third in the last six years behind a strong showing from the team’s field events. The Aggies won their second consecutive women’s championship, beating out runner-up UC Santa Barbara. The Highlanders wound up finishing fifth and seventh for the men’s and women’s team, respectively.

The weekend was an enormous success for UCR’s track and field team; they competed with the best while proving that they were one of them. The champions now take to the road to compete in the NCAA First Round Championships in Austin, Texas on May 23.