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Despite wind track and field shines at UTEP Invitational

Andres Martinez
UTEP track and field had 13 athletes with first-place collegiate finishes during the UTEP Invitational.

The Miners hosted their second track meet of the season at Kidd Field on Saturday, April 18. Many of the events carried on despite the wind on a day that also served to recognize UTEP’s seniors.

Despite nature doing it’s best to spoil the day, 16 UTEP seniors were honored on Senior Day and 13 Miners had first-place collegiate finishes.

“It was a good day, we’re almost where we need to be,” said track and field head coach Mika Laaksonen. “We have some seniors, who for some reason, are not competing well…We get those individuals ready, we’ll be ready to go in conference.”

The focus of the event was primarily on the individual, not with the teams placing in the event.

Women’s 100-meter hurdles continued to dominate the way they did at the indoor championships earlier this year.

Senior Ana Kay James finished second behind an unattached Jamaican hurdler—making James the winner in the eyes of the NCAA. Junior Bria Love, senior Aeisha McDavid and senior Greta Kerekes came in after James in third, fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Kerekes was in third place until the last hurdle, when she tripped causing her to lose speed.  She said the wind played a factor in her troubles.

“The wind was too much,” Kerekes said. “It was very difficult to control and I did not realize how fast my legs were moving with the wind.”

James attributed some of her success to Kerekes, who she said helps push her every day.

“She makes me focus on my run,” James said. “If I can focus on my blocks as fast as her, or faster, then I don’t have to be chasing her.”

Kerekes and James are one of many UTEP partners  who motivate each other to higher levels.

Distance runners senior Anthony Rotich and sophomore Cosmas Boit, continued their one-two punch on the track. Rotich won the 1,500-meter race with Boit in second place.

“Winning at home is so good,”  Rotich, who sat out UTEP’s first home track meet this season, said. “It’s kind of showing the fact that I can do it even when I’m at home, it feels better than winning away.”

The Miners can do more than just run as they proved with their performance outside of the track.

Senior Taylor Gunn got things started quickly for the Miners by winning the first field event of the day. Gunn out-threw the competition by a meter and secured her place at the top of the podium in the hammer throw.

The Miners were not done with throwing after Gunn’s win.

The men had a good day with the javelin. Freshman Rasmus Maukonen threw near his personal best. His 72.74-meter throw was his career second best and was good enough for first place, better than his competition by a margin of more than five meters.

“Winning at home is always the best feeling,” Maukonen, who is a native of Finland, said. “It is the best here and it is the best in Finland too.”

He is an obvious crowd favorite because of his throws, but his enthusiasm also makes him stand out. Before each throw he yells at the javelin.

“I don’t know, nothing, no words,” Maukonen said about his pre-throw ritual. “I think it is always a little different.”

The wind  affected not only the athletes’ performances, but also hurt the atmosphere. Kidd Field looked more like it does on a regular practice day than at a competition, with many fans absent because of the strong gusts.

The small crowd was disappointing, but Miner fans will have other opportunities to watch the track and field team live and in action.

UTEP will host two more track meets before the 2015 outdoor season is over.

The UTEP Twilight track meet is scheduled for Friday, May 1, and the Conference USA Outdoor Championships will be held from May 14-17. Both events will take place at Kidd Field.

Juan Carlos Navarrete can be reached at [email protected].

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Despite wind track and field shines at UTEP Invitational