CANYON, Texas – The 2014 track & field season was another huge step forward for a young Buffalo team along with head coach Darren Flowers and the rest of his staff. In just its fifth year since reinstatement (2010), the team captured its first Lone Star Conference title during the indoor campaign. During the 2014 spring season, the Buffs earned numerous individual accolades on part of the athletes and coaches alike, including five individual LSC titles and six national qualifiers between 10 events. We can now reflect back on a strong season as the Buffs head into the summer with a new-look record book and the addition of two All-America athletes.
2014 INDOOR SEASON
The first four meets of the regular season took place at the indoor facilities of Texas Tech University and the University of New Mexico with two being held at each location. Highlighting the team’s performance in the first meet, the Texas Tech Open, sophomore Paul Alongo (field) and junior Arnau Erta (track) swept the LSC’s first set of weekly awards.
The Buffs, who were tabbed 14th in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Association’s (USTFCCCA) Preseason Team Computer Rankings, really got rolling with some solid individual performances the second week at the sixth annual UNM Cherry & Silver Collegiate Invitational. Alongo would grab his long jump mark that propelled him into national qualification while the team got some great experience competing against six ranked Division I teams.
Two weeks later, the Buffs split between their final trip to UNM while some distance runners made the flight to Boston, Mass. to compete in the David Hemery Valentine Invitational. In Boston, junior Baptiste Moreu had one of the best performances for a WT track athlete during the 2014 season as he broke a 37-year old men's indoor mile record, passing Joseph Kemei's mark set in 1977. Moreu's time of 4:06.77 surpassed Kemei's time of 4:07.4 and also set a new LSC record.
"Baptiste's race (in Boston) was an example of what this sport is all about," said Flowers. "It's about getting in the race, being in the moment and pouring everything you have into the effort. It was fun to watch!"
The early part of the week after Boston was full of awards for WT Track & Field. Flowers kicked it off as he was honored on Feb. 9th by the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame as the Track & Field Coach of the Year. Three days later, Moreu (track) and sophomore Zach Weatherly (field) grabbed another Buff sweep in the LSC weekly awards.
WT then made its way to the 7,544 ft.-high town of Alamosa, Colo. to compete in the Adams State University NCAA Qualifier on Feb. 15, its final meet before the LSC Indoor Championship. Weatherly had himself a career day as he broke a 40-year old school mark previously set by Dennis Briggs back in 1974. He would place second in the event. Weatherly saved plenty of strength for his next event in the weight throw, also a record-breaking performance. His mark of 16.95m (55'-75"), surpassed his own school record set last season (16.22m).
"We definitely accomplished what we wanted to do at Adams State," added Flowers. "We improved our spots on a few of the events nationally, allowing us to go into the LSC meet with a lot of confidence."
On Feb. 27th, Moreu was named the LSC Indoor Track & Field Men’s Academic Player of the Year. Following him on the LSC All-Academic team were teammates sophomore Fabian Mueller, senior Martin Puga, and junior Armando Rueda.
Lone Star Conference Championship (Lubbock, Texas)
Shortly after an exciting end to the Lady Buffs' LSC Championship run on Sunday, the men's team completed the West Texas A&M sweep in Lubbock on March 2nd. The title marked the first LSC Championship for the Buffs and they achieved it convincingly with 163 total points.
WT topped No. 12 Texas A&M-Kingsville by 39 points. The Javelinas placed second with 123 points followed by Texas A&M-Commerce (121), Tarleton State (105), McMurry (63), Harding (53) and Eastern New Mexico (33). In the process, the Buffs broke three school records, with one being broken twice, along with one LSC Championship record.
"Winning that championship was something we set out to do from the beginning so it was pretty exciting to see it happen," exclaimed Flowers. "We knew we had the depth and firepower to do it. We had to overcome a lot during the indoor season with sickness and health issues, as most teams do, but I told them we had to care about each other, lift each other up and give 100% and they did that."
The Buffs were led by three individual champions in Weatherly (shot put), junior Josh Helom (400m) and freshman Tadarius Ridge (55m). All three were named to the LSC All-Conference team thanks to their individual titles while Flowers was tabbed LSC Indoor Track & Field Men’s Head Coach of the Year.
Following the LSC Championship, the USTFCCCA presented its yearly regional awards. Making the All-South Central Region team were 12 Buffs, including Alongo, Erta, Helom, Moreu, Weatherly, Kemarki Absalom, Jerell Banks, Triedecio Davis, Trevor Dennis, Benoit Nadin, Kennedy Prescott and Micah Washington. Helom and Prescott each made the list in two separate events. Coach Flowers continued to add to his trophy case as he was deemed South Central Region Men’s Head Coach of the Year. Preceding the announcement of national qualifiers, Flowers coached the Buffs to 20 provisional marks and six school records.
NCAA National Championship (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Four Buffs made the cut for qualification into the NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field National Championship: Paul Alongo (long jump), Baptiste Moreu (mile), Benoit Nadin (triple jump) and Zach Weatherly (shot put). The championship meet was held at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem, N.C. and was co-hosted by Winston-Salem State University and Visit Winston-Salem on March 14-15.
Alongo sat in fifth in long jump as he advanced through to the two-heat final on the first day. He used his first attempt of the afternoon to propel him through to the podium and on to All-American status in seventh place (All-America awards are given to the top-eight individuals or teams in each event). Alongo jumped 7.28m (23'-10.75") in that first try which was just .02m away from his personal record and .05m away from a school record.
"It felt really good to go there and perform compared to last year," said Alongo. "I finished very close to last place there last season so I know that my hard work paid off during indoor.”
Moreu and Nadin finished 12th and 14th, respectively, in their events while Weatherly, in his first trip to the national stage, missed the podium by one spot in ninth after qualifying for the finals.
New Indoor School Records
400m: Josh Helom (48.44)
Mile: Baptiste Moreu (4:06.77)*
4x400m Relay: Trevor Dennis, Josh Helom, Triedecio Davis & Kennedy Prescott (3:15.16)
Triple Jump: Benoit Nadin (14.77m)
Shot Put: Zach Weatherly (17.45m)%
Weight Throw: Zach Weatherly (16.95m)
* - LSC Record
% - LSC Championship Record
2014 OUTDOOR SEASON
Without any break, the Buffs kicked off the outdoor season the following weekend on March 22nd with a trip to McMurry, a new member of the LSC for the 2014 track & field season. A big weekend ensued after jumping into the USTFCCCA National Team Computer Rankings at 18th as the team combined competition between the Bobcat Invitational at Texas State and the 87th running of the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin, Texas. By the end of those first three meets, the Buffs had racked up eight provisional qualifying marks and moved up to 13th in the rankings following the Texas Relays.
Weatherly then had another very successful weekend when WT traveled to Angelo State on April 5th to compete in the David Noble Relays. The sophomore Tascosa HS graduate got back to his record-breaking ways as he set new school outdoor shot put and hammer marks and was awarded once again with LSC Field Athlete of the Week honors.
On April 12th, WT hosted the first of its two home meets, the West Texas A&M Open. The following weekend, the team embarked on trips to the Kansas Relays along with two West Coast meets, the Mt. SAC Relays and Beach Invitational. The Buffs then returned home for its final regular season meet, the West Texas A&M Classic, as several athletes put together strong individual performances, including Alongo who finished first in long jump with a 7.43m jump, breaking Daryl Melnyk’s 35-year old school record. Afterwards, Alongo (field) and Helom (track) grabbed the final LSC weekly awards of the season.
Moreu earned the sweep of the LSC Academic Player of the Year awards on April 30th, the day before the LSC Championship, as he was honored for the outdoor campaign as well.
Lone Star Conference Championship (Kingsville, Texas)
WT took the long trip to Kingsville for this year’s LSC Outdoor Championship on May 1-3. The Buffs finished in a tie for fourth place with TSU with 109 points. They trailed team champion and host TAMUK (first, 175), Angelo State (second, 153) and TAMUC (third, 114). Following WT and TSU were Harding (sixth, 76), McMurry (seventh, 43) and ENMU (eighth, 39).
"Our guys had to fight through a lot of adversity that weekend," added Flowers. "We were missing some key players from our roster with some injuries but we had some outstanding individual performances that kept us in the team race.”
The Buffs had two individual champions who topped the podium, both in the second day of the championship. First was Weatherly who won the hammer competition with a mark of 52.13m. Freshman Steve Lagat then finished first in the 10,000m run with a time of 31:23.84 which set a facility record and a new PR. Both were named LSC All-Conference while Weatherly earned the Oscar Strahan Award as the LSC’s Most Outstanding Field Athlete. He scored 24 total points at the meet, most of any male competitor, and had top-three finishes in all three of his events.
One last shot at qualification remained after the LSC meet as some individuals traveled to Shawnee, Okla. for the Oklahoma Baptist Last Chance meet. Nadin would take full advantage of the opportunity as he earned his second-straight trip to nationals off of his PR and high provisional triple jump mark of 14.98m.
In the following days, the Buffs were once again well-represented on the USTFCCCA All-Region team. Making the list were repeat selections Absalom, Alongo, Banks, Dennis, Erta, Helom, Nadin, Prescott, and Weatherly while Ridge made his debut on the team.
NCAA National Championship (Allendale, Mich.)
Five athletes from the Buffs’ squad qualified for the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field National Championship which was held in Allendale, Mich. and co-hosted by Grand Valley State University and the West Michigan Sports Commission. Alongo, Nadin & Weatherly each earned their second national qualification of the year while Banks and Erta also made the trip.
Erta, coming in as the 17th seed in the men's 110m hurdles, rolled through the prelims into finals on the final day with a new PR on the track. He surpassed it once again in the last heat with a time of 14.27, putting him onto the podium in seventh place and earning the first All-America award of his career.
"I knew I just had to trust myself," added Erta about final heat. "In big races at this stage anything can happen. You just have to worry about yourself and do your job and not focus on everyone else in the heat."
Alongo and Nadin would finish 11th and 15th in the long jump and triple jump, respectively. Banks, also competing on the track in the 200m dash, placed 19th in the country. Weatherly made his return trip to the national stage in two separate events. He would end up finishing 18th in both shot put and discus.
New Outdoor School Records
1000m: Baptiste Moreu (2:34.28)^
3000m: Michael Barnett (8:55.49)
4x800m Relay: Armando Rueda, Martin Puga, Merritt Vaughan & Junior Baca (7:52.94)
Long Jump: Paul Alongo (7.43m)
Shot Put: Zach Weatherly (17.83m)
Hammer: Zach Weatherly (52.22m)
^ - WTAMU Track & Field Complex Facility Record
The 2013-14 track & field season may now be over but the Buffs are still racking up the awards. On May 29th, Collegiate Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) announced the members of the Capital One First-Team Academic All-District teams for the cross country and track & field seasons combined. The four male athletes on the list were Moreu, junior Brett Villarreal and sophomores Zach Daniel and Lucas Marquez, all dual-sport athletes between cross country and track & field.
First-team Academic All-District® honorees advance to the Capital One Academic All-America® Team ballot, where first-, second- and third-team All-America honorees will be selected in June.
The following day, the USTFCCCA released the 2013-14 Program of the Year Rankings which reflect the all-around strength of each school’s cross country and track & field teams combined during the athletics season. The Buffs achieved their highest finish in the rankings in school history at 15th. Points in the rankings are determined by the program’s final ranking in each of the three National Championships during the given year.
"I'm extremely proud of how far this Track & Field and Cross Country program has come in the last five years," noted Flowers about the USTFCCCA rankings. "It has always been our goal to be a complete, well-rounded program and to finish in the top 15. For the men to finish there in all of NCAA Division II is an honor. These rankings reflect all of the hard work and dedication our athletes and coaches put in. I am grateful for the people that have been a part of building this program over the years."