Air Force bettered the rest of the men’s field by more than 75 points, as Wichita State finished second with 87 points. Arizona State, ranked 20th in the latest NCAA standings, finishing third with 61 points, while Arizona (fourth, 53) and Wyoming (fifth, 49.50) rounded out the top five. Colorado State tallied 48 points to finish right behind the Cowboys, while athletes from No. 13 USC (seventh, 36), top-ranked Oregon (eighth tie, 23), Stanford (eighth tie, 23) and sixth-ranked BYU (10th, 19) rounded out the top 10.
Skage and Lipe recorded matching career-best pole vault clearances of 17’9¾” to finish second and third, respectively, in the 12-vaulter competition and lead Air Force to five scoring finishes. That clearance – a personal-best mark for Lipe and a career-best matching mark for Skage – is the eighth-best mark in Academy history and tied for the No. 10 jump in the NCAA this season, meaning Lipe will join Skage in next month’s national championship meet at Arkansas. Junior Ethan Gardner added a personal-best clearance of 16’8¾” – a personal improvement of eight inches – to finish fifth, while freshman Caiden Macktinger took sixth at 16’5¾” and junior Ryan Brown finished seventh with a season-best matching mark of 16’0¾”.
Sophomore Hayden Bullock joined the pole vaulters as scoring finishers from the field, as he recorded a distance of 52’5¼” to finish seventh in the shot put.
Classmate Cameron Harris and junior Sean Geither both contributed to Air Force’s point total in multiple events. Before joining seniors Zachary Dicken and Luke Zuluaga in the mile relay that finished second in a time of 3:15.37, Harris posted a personal-best time of 8.07 to finish sixth in the 60-meter hurdles and Geither used a career-best time of 48.68 to earn the same placement in the 400-meter dash.
Freshman Cole Lindhorst and senior Konrad Steck picked up first-place finishes on the track, winning the mile (4:14.44) and 3000-meter run (8:44.69), respectively. Lindhorst paced the Falcons to four scoring finishes in the mile, as junior AJ Kedge, sophomore Ben Leicht and junior Garrett Blenkush finished fourth (4:25.98), fifth (4:27.47) and sixth (4:29.62), respectively, while Steck led junior Joseph Wittig (8:46.12), sophomore Aidan Boyle (8:47.63), junior Matt Zacharias (8:47.96) and freshman Ryan Child (8:49.20) to a sweep of the top-five finishes in the 10-runner event.
The Falcons also earned multiple scoring finishes in the 800-meter run. Senior Aric Kedge medaled in that event after finishing third in a career-best time of 1:54.64, while junior Frank Rossi and freshman Jahson Ferguson finished fourth (1:55.16) and sixth (2:03.38), respectively.
“Over 50-percent of our athletes that performed had seasonal-best or lifetime-best marks,” head coach Ralph Lindeman said. “That’s phenomenal – any time you do that. If you do that in a conference meet, you win a conference meet and we did it today. Yes, some teams didn’t come (to altitude) with their distance runners, but even if you take out the distance events … we win the meet. I’m extremely proud.”
Senior Addyson Smith highlighted the women’s lineup on Championship Saturday, as she recorded the sixth-best shot put distance in Academy history during a scoring finish in that event (sixth). Smith, who debuted on the program’s top 10 two weeks ago, added another foot-and-a-half to jump from ninth to sixth on the Academy’s all-time standing after recording a toss of 45’9¼” on her opening attempt.
The women earned multiple scoring finishes in the mile, as freshmen Rachel Crytser led a quartet of Falcons to point-producing times in that event. Crytser and Rebecca Wusinich finished third (5:20.87) and fourth (5:24.43), respectively, in the 10-runner event, while sophomore Stephanie Gregersen placed sixth (5:28.34) and freshman Rayna Fruchey took seventh in a time of 5:30.26.
“Our women beat a lot of really good Division I schools,” Lindeman continued. “I’m so proud of how our women competed – ninth out of 19 women’s teams. I’m just really pleased with how they performed.
The women tallied 33.5 points to finish ninth in a loaded 19-team field that included athletes from five top-25 teams. Wichita State won the team title with 75 points, while Colorado State (54.5) edged UNLV by just a half point (54) to finish second. Oregon, ranked ninth in the NCAA, finished just two points back in fourth (52) and Arizona State rounded out the top five with 48 points. Fifth-ranked USC (45), No. 25 Arizona (39), Stanford (36), Air Force (33.5) and California (25) completed the tightly contested top 10 – where less than 30 points separated second from 10th.
“It was a great substitute for a conference meet,” Lindeman said of the championship-caliber event he and his coaching staff created to replace the cancelled conference meets within the Mountain West, MPSF/Pac-12, American, WAC and Big Sky. “We understand that some teams came here as a qualifying meet to the NCAA Championships, but some of them went after it – like Wichita State, who we beat head-to-head. Our kids had a nice experience, and to do it at home makes it even more special. Now, I can’t wait to for next week’s NCAA Indoor Championships, but I’m already in outdoor mode and thinking about the Mountain West Outdoor Championships in mid-May.
Championship season continues for the Falcons next week, as members of their distance team travel to Las Vegas for the delayed 2020 Mountain West Cross Country Championships on Friday, March 5.