The Mountain West’s two best track and field teams squared off in an old-fashioned dual Friday, with Air Force looking very much like the conference front-runner.
The Falcons men’s team stomped New Mexico 228-121 in a meet with rare head-to-head scoring. Northern Colorado was also in the field, falling to Air Force 259-78 and to New Mexico 174-101.
The outdoor season is still young, and Friday’s cold, windy conditions hardly provided ideal conditions. But both sides couldn’t have been happier about the format that pitted the Lobos, this year’s indoor champions, and Falcons, last year’s outdoor champs and this year’s indoor runners-up.
“Next week we’ll be in a meet and there will be no winners and losers, there will just be times,” Air Force track coach Ralph Lindeman said. “I just don’t think it’s something people can relate to and kids don’t have as much fun.
“This is the kind of meet that our sport really needs.”
On the women’s side, New Mexico edged Air Force 177-167. The Falcons beat Northern Colorado 201-129 and New Mexico beat the Bears 202-107.
New Mexico hadn’t competed in a head-to-head meet with Air Force in decades, but agreed to this because of the programs’ mutual recent successes and ties among the coaches. Air Force will return the trip next year and the teams hope the series will become a schedule staple.
At 4 ½ hours, the meet was a brisk departure from the two-day marathons teams usually endure at competitions, and the format made points vital in each event, which showcased Air Force’s depth – particularly in the field events.
“We’ve gotten away from scored meets and having fun,” New Mexico coach Joe Franklin said. “This is like middle school sports, there’s a winner and a loser. We lost one, won one.”
Air Force rested star pole vaulters Cale Simmons and Joey Uhle, yet still swept the top three spots in the event on the men’s side. Linebacker James Chambers – one of two football players on the track team – won the shot put and discus. Jake Spuller won at 200 meters, was second in the 100 and ran on Air Force’s 400-meter relay that ran the fourth-fastest time in school history.
“Not all of us like running in the cold,” said Spuller, whose winning time of 21.42 seconds in the 200 was just 0.02 off his personal record, which is 10th on the Falcons’ all-time list. “I like it, but I’m from Michigan, so I’m kind of used to this. I think everyone did well considering the conditions.”
Kassie Gurnell won the women's triple jump and ran on the winning 400 relay team and Nikki Freeman remained unbeaten through four events this season in javelin, winning by nearly 3 meters with a throw of 135 feet, 4 inches.
When the events were finished, Air Force and New Mexico retreated together to enjoy some barbecue – adding another aspect to the throwback feel.
“New Mexico loved it, we loved it and Northern Colorado was happy to be here, too,” Lindeman said. “I bet this prepared them well for the Big Sky, too. We hope to do it more.”