Miners search for seven

Miners+search+for+seven

Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics

Juan Carlos Navarrete, Staff Reporter

For years, the women’s indoor track team always came in second or third in the Conference USA championships, until they got over the hump last year and won their first league title in history. In Birmingham, Ala., Feb. 24-25, the Miners defended their title and managed to win their second C-USA championship in a row.

The Miners tallied 120 points throughout the two days of the meet to fend off a very strong Western Kentucky team with 106. WKU came into this championship as the reigning outdoor champion, and managed to go toe-to-toe with the Miners for much of the championship.

“The coaching staff is very proud of our girls and they had to work really hard for this title,” Conference USA Head Coach of the Year Mika Laaksonen said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the team.”

Sophomore distance runner Lilian Koech repeated her outstanding performances  from last year when she was a break-out freshman.

Koech took gold in the mile run, with a time of 4:53.43, fourth in the 800-meter run, with a time of 2:11.68, and fifth in the 3,000-m run, with a time of 9:45.05. Koech was able to bring the Miners a total of 19 points, which boded well with the rest of the team as it moved forward.

The Miners were able to impress in the 60-m hurdles early in the competition. The Miners were able get the first two places in the race with Tobi Amusan (8.23) and Brittney Trought (8.37), which resulted in 18 points.

The freshmen and sophomores were not the only ones who were pulling their weight for the team; Senior Nickevea Wilson won her second career indoor triple jump conference title. Wilson jumped 12.92 meters to get the Miners 10 points.

“Last year was a tough season for me,” Wilson said. “I made sure I was on top, so I’m just happy for that. Next week (at nationals) we are just going to go there, execute and give it our everything and see what happens.”

Koech shines for men’s team

The men’s team finished near the end of the pack in eighth place with 39 points. The Miners surely missed their veteran and national champion Anthony Rotich, who graduated last year, and always guaranteed points for the men. Even without Rotich, the Miners found a way to get small wins that is promising for this team moving forward.

The championship was a chance for the Miners to showcase their talent in the post ­­­— Rotich era; and although they did not reach the podium, not all was lost for this team.

The Miners got a glimpse of the future of this team with freshman Jona Koech, who was named Freshman of the Meet. Koech took home gold in the mile run, with a time of 4:07.34. The fact that Koech could rise to the occasion, win the race and be named Freshman of the Meet bodes well with this Miners’ team.

Next, individuals from the team will travel back to Birmingham, Ala. for the NCAA indoor championships from March 11-12.

Juan Carlos Navarrete  may be reached at [email protected]