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UTEP at track and field indoor C-USA championships

UTEP’s Jakub Belik headlined the first day, claiming the men’s high jump title during the 2023 Conference USA Indoor Track and Field championships in Birmingham, Ala., at the Birmingham CrossPlex Saturday. Photo courtesy of UTEP Athletics

UTEP traveled to Birmingham, Alabama Feb. 18 and Feb. 19, to compete in the 2023 Conference USA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Charlotte took first overall at the meet, with the men earning 159 points and women earning 129.5. UTEP competed well, with the men and women respectively placing fourth with 95 points and sixth with 63 points. 

Although UTEP did not win the meet, there were multiple individuals who outperformed at the competition. Most notable from the meet was the record-breaking 3000-meter run by grad student Daniel Bernal. The Eastwood graduate ran a championship-meet record and personal record 8:00.14, taking the gold for UTEP. 

Junior sprinter Niesha Burgher took home three medals. A transfer from Western Texas College and in her first season with UTEP, Burgher finished first in the 200-meter dash in 23.29. She also earned silver in the 60-meter dash, finishing in 7.38.  

Burgher’s last silver medal came from the women’s 4×400 meter relay. Sprinters sophomore Loubna Benhadja, junior Oghenekaro Brume, and senior Carshayla Harrison, completed a season best in the event, running it in 3.40.90. 

Along with the silver for the 4×400, Benhadja took bronze in the 400-meter dash, finishing in 55.29. Junior sprinter Denae McFarlane also participated in the 60-meter dash, bringing home the bronze finishing right behind Burgher with a time of 7.41. Sophomore high jump Jakub Belik earned gold on Saturday for his event. Sophomore sprinter Marissa Simpson took first in the 60-meter dash, finishing in 8.29. 

Senior distance runner Kenneth Talavera defended his first place win for the mile from last year, running a 4:07.08. He also took silver in the 800-meter, finishing it in 1:53.35. His performance in these events tied him with Bernal for third with 18 points earned each. 

Although UTEP runners performed well for their events, Head Coach Mika Laaksonen acknowledged that the team has some work to do to be better prepared for both the outdoor track championships and UTEP’s toughest competition, Charlotte. 

“Even though we had multiple excellent individual performances, we did not quite perform as well on the team’s side as expected. The final achieved team scores are a reality check for both teams,” Laaksonen said. “On the men’s side, we need to get healthy by outdoors and perform better as a team when it counts. Charlotte will still be the team to beat outdoors. We need more depth on the women’s side to reach the top level at conference.” 

During this championship weekend, the Miners brought home five gold, four silver, and three bronze, for a total of twelve medals. Laaksonen expressed how well the Miners performed this past weekend, but he wants to do better for the outdoor track championships. 

“Even though we will add a couple of true outdoor athletes and indoor redshirts to the roster on the women’s side, this year’s recruiting effort will play a key role in us getting better by next year,” Laaksonen said. “But I’m happy to get four new first-time individual conference champions here. We will take a much-needed recovery week and get back to full scale outdoor practices the following week. Focus on practice will be a lot on building mental toughness in addition to preparing our student-athletes physically to the next championship.” 

Nicholas Maes may be reached at [email protected] 


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About the Contributor
Nicholas Maes
Nicholas Maes, Editor-in-Chief
Nicholas Maes is the editor-in-chief for The Prospector. He is a senior majoring in history with a minor in commercial music. He plans to continue his academic career in history after earning his bachelor's degree.
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UTEP at track and field indoor C-USA championships