CLOVIS, Calif. - For a brief moment during the finals of the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase, Utah State's Cierra Simmons thought to herself that a second-place finish would not be very bad.
That thought did not last long, though. The junior from Soda Springs, Idaho, turned it on down the stretch and coasted to victory Friday on Day 3 of the Mountain West Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Simmons crossed the finish line in a school-record time of 9:56.60.
"It's one thing to focus on a time and have it not matter how many people are ahead of you, but at the end of the day, and at the end of the race when all you want to do is be done, it was amazing to say, `Okay, Cierra, if you want to do it, you've got to do it now,'" Simmons said. "There was a point in the race where I said, `You know, second wouldn't be that bad,' but then coming around that second-to-last final stretch before we hit the bell lap, I thought, `If you're going to do something, it has to happen now. If you're going to do something big, it starts now because you're not going to have time later.'"
So, with about 450 meters to go, Simmons past New Mexico's Charlotte Prouse, who came into the championships ranked third in the country. Prouse finished second with a time of 9:59.25.
"It was awesome and it was a performance that we needed to see," said USU head track & field coach Matt Ingebritsen. "This was the kind of performance that we were looking for from our women's teams, and Cierra stepping up like that really helped set a fire for the rest of the girls on this team. We had some good performances throughout the day, a much better Friday than we had last year, and Cierra doing that really set the tempo for us. I'm really proud of her."
Simmons' time of 9:56.60 now ranks second all-time in MW Championship history, trailing the 9:55.63 set by BYU's Elizabeth Jackson in 2001. Furthermore, the time broke her previous school record of 9:59.85 set earlier this season.
"The big thing is that I heard all of those people like Brenn (Flint) and Sam (Nelson) cheering me on," Simmons said. "There was just somebody at every point yelling, `Go Cierra, go Cierra!' I'm the one that's out there on the track, but there are a lot people that have been there pushing me through workouts and people that have been there believing in me when the day is long and you don't want to be there, so it's fun doing it together, and it's fun doing it here where everyone can see. Hopefully, when I say that they helped in that, they'll actually believe me."
Brenn Flint, a junior, also won gold for the USU women as she captured the shot put crown with a mark of 16.65m (54-07.50). It marked the first time since 1998 that an Aggie has won the event at a conference championship meet (Jessica Drake, Big West).
Senior Olivia Moriconi gave the Aggies a 1-2 finish in the women's shot put as she placed second with a mark of 16.28m (53-05.00).
"I'm glad to be over 16.50 meters again," said Flint, who also won the shot put title at the MW Indoor Championships. "It was good practice for the NCAA West Prelims, so I'm happy with it. Olivia getting second place was awesome. I'm glad that we were here to push each other, and I think we are both happy with our performances this week."
As a team, Utah State is currently tied for second place with 36 points, along with New Mexico. Colorado State is in first with 51 points, while Boise State is fourth with 30 points and Fresno State rounds out the top five in fifth with 28.50 points.
Junior Sam Nelson led the way on the men's side for the Aggies as he captured the pole vault title with a mark of 5.00m (16-04.75). He also won the pole vault title at the MW Indoor Championships.
"It gives Utah State a good name and says that we've got athletes that can do it, and we can come out and make some big things happen," Nelson said. "Winning at indoors helped me to know that I can do it, and it gave me that confidence that I can do it, but it's a new meet and a new day, so I've just got to keep the mentality that anything can happen."
Nelson became the first Aggie to win an outdoor conference title in the pole vault since Maurice Jenkins did so in 2000 (Big West).
Senior David Hirschmann placed second in the finals of the shot put with a career-best heave of 17.81m (58-05.25), which ranks ninth all-time in school history.
In the finals of the 3,000m steeplechase, a couple of Aggies placed in the top five. Senior Spencer Fehlberg took second place with a time of 9:02.74, while junior Adam Hendrickson finished fifth with a time of 9:13.32.
The USU men will enter Saturday's final day of competition in third place with 41 points. Colorado State is first with 80.50 points and Air Force is second with 63 points. Saturday's action begins at 3 p.m. (MT) with the finals of the women's javelin. Track events get underway at 6 p.m. (MT) with the finals of the women's 4x100-meter relay.
"I don't think I can be more proud of what these kids are doing right now. I'm excited for Saturday," Ingebritsen said.
Fans can follow the Utah State track & field programs at twitter.com/USUTF_XC, on Facebook at USUTrack and on Instagram at instagram.com/USUTF_XC. Aggies fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
MOUNTAIN WEST OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
VETERANS MEMORIAL STADIUM
MAY 11, 2018
1. Colorado State - 51
T2. UTAH STATE - 36
T2. New Mexico - 36
4. Boise State - 30
5. Fresno State - 28.50
6. UNLV - 26
7. San Jose State - 25
8. Nevada - 14.50
9. Wyoming - 11
10. Air Force - 8
11. San Diego State - 7
1. Colorado State - 80.50
2. Air Force - 63
3. UTAH STATE - 41
4. Wyoming - 34
5. New Mexico - 31.50
6. Boise State - 10
7. Fresno State - 9
USU WOMEN RESULTS:
Shot Put (finals) - 1. Brenn Flint, 16.65m (54-07.50); 2. Olivia Moriconi, 16.28m (53-05.00); 9. Maia Garren, 14.48m (47-06.25); 17. Tori Bailey, 10.84m (35-06.75).
Long Jump (finals) - 17. Whitney Skabelund, 5.65m (18-06.50); 20. Niki Xydona, 5.49m (18-00.25).
Hammer (finals) - 7. Maia Garren, 55.05m (180-07); 11. Michala Zilkey, 49.35m (161-11); 20. Tori Bailey, 44.57m (146-03).
High Jump (finals) - 6. Jennifer Christensen, 1.71m (5-07.25); 9. Josiah Williams, 1.66m (5-05.25); T12. Talie Bonds, 1.61m (5-03.25).
1,500m - 4. Tylee Newman-Skinner, 4:37.03Q; 13. Shannon Maloney, 4:47.38.
100m Hurdles - 6. Talie Bonds, 13.99q; 10. Olivia Leavitt, 14.21; 11. Jordan Brandt, 14.22.
400m - 17. Jensen Mosman, 57.62; Melanie Sullivan, 57.69; 19. Breann Bate, 57.89.
800m - 9. Karen Christensen, 2:13.82q.
400m Hurdles - 8. Jordan Brandt, 1:02.15q.
200m - 19. Kasia Lawrynowicz, 25.17.
3,000m Steeplechase (finals) - 1. Cierra Simmons, 9:56.60; 12. Heather Holt, 10:46.65.
USU MEN RESULTS:
Hammer (finals) - 7. Oran Wasserman, 53.00m (173-11); 11. Christian Sonnenberg, 49.15m (161-03).
Long Jump (finals) - 4. Leaugen Fray, 7.23m (23-08.75); 9. Kyle Brost, 6.83m (22-05.00).
Pole Vault (finals) - 1. Sam Nelson, 5.00m (16-04.75).
Shot Put (finals) - 2. David Hirschmann, 17.81m (58-05.25); 8. Josh Barclay, 16.13m (52-11.00); 9. Kyle Morris, 16.08m (52-09.25).
1,500m - 1. Brody Smith, 3:54.13Q; 4. Samuel Coleman, 3:57.18Q.
110m Hurdles - 3. Samuel Wing, 14.78q; 5. Chade Gonter, 15.19q; 7. Jacob Davis, 15.29q.
100m - 10. Austin Lane, 10.83; 11. Garen Earley, 10.87; 13. Junior Tovar, 10.92.
800m - 1. Jordan Beutler, 1:51.69Q; 2. Clay Lambourne, 1:53.74Q; 13. Dylan Barker, 1:56.03. 200m - 12. Garen Earley, 22.38.
3,000m Steeplechase (finals) - 2. Spencer Fehlberg, 9:02.74; 5. Adam Hendrickson, 9:13.32.
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