LOGAN, Utah - Utah State's track & field teams will host the 2017 Mountain West Outdoor Championships this Wednesday through Saturday, May 10-13, at Ralph Maughan Track Stadium.
"It's been a chore getting ready to host the championships, but that's what made all the athletes buy into it and be excited about the fact we actually get to sleep in our own beds and compete at home on a track we are familiar with, so we're pretty excited about that," said veteran USU head coach Gregg Gensel.
It is the first time the Aggies have hosted a conference championship meet since 2009, when they welcomed five men's and eight women's team to town for the WAC Championships. USU captured the men's title that year, while the women placed fourth.
"Competing at home in the conference championships is such a privilege," said senior javelin thrower Devin Wright, who ranks fourth in the Mountain West with a personal-best throw of 64.78m (212-6). "It will be so wonderful to have family and friends, that otherwise wouldn't be able to come, cheering me on. Besides that, being familiar with the facilities and the conditions will help a great deal. I think the javelin will be especially fun to watch, but I am looking forward to a great meet from everyone in front of the Aggie faithful."
Junior distance runner Dillon Maggard agreed.
"It's really awesome to be at home," said Maggard, who ranks 11th in the nation in the 5,000m and 21st in the nation in the 1,500m with school-record times of 13:41.17 and 3:42.15, respectively. "My family is coming down from Seattle and then a lot of people from Logan will be here. All my friends will get to see me race, so it's a good opportunity to run in front of the home crowd. We don't have to travel and we're familiar with the track and the area, which should give us an advantage."
This is just the third time since 1996 that Utah State has played host to a conference track meet. That year, the Aggies hosted the Big West Conference Championships, capturing the men's and women's team titles in the process.
"We're really excited about the possibilities of being able to perform well at home in front of our fans," Gensel said. "Like I said, by hosting the conference meet, the athletes get to sleep in their own beds, which is always more comfortable doing that. Most of the time, when you're comfortable, great things happen."
At the 2016 Mountain West Outdoor Championships, Utah State finished second on the men's side and sixth on the women's side. Since joining the conference, the men have finished third, fourth and second, while the women have finished sixth, fourth and sixth.
"Everyone has to do their best to place and score points," Maggard said. "To score points for the team, everyone has got to believe that we have a shot to do it."
Air Force enters the meet as the reigning champion on the men's side, while the Colorado State women are seeking their third consecutive conference crown. The Falcons look to take home the title for the fourth time overall and in back-to-back years for the first time since claiming the 2012 and 2013 championships. The CSU women are currently riding a streak of four straight titles between the indoor (2016 and 2017) and outdoor (2015 and 2016) seasons. A total of 18 teams (seven men, 11 women) will compete in the meet.
"On the men's side, I just want to see our athletes perform and do the best that they can," Gensel said. "They are capable of doing some great things, so I'm excited to see what happens. We have a young women's team that is getting better and I think it's going to be something where we'll be able to perform well and have some great things happen. We're excited on both sides to be able to perform at home and see what we can do."
The Outdoor Championships begin Wednesday at 2 p.m. with the men's decathlon (100m, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400m). The women's heptathlon (100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m) will get underway at 2:30 p.m.
"To be competing at home for the conference championships means a lot," said USU sophomore thrower Brenn Flint, who ranks second in the Mountain West in the shot put (15.61m/51-2.75) and seventh in the discus (49.88m/163-8). "Being able to compete in front of your home crowd and all your teammates, friends and family is a feeling that you can't describe.
"There are a lot of emotions that come along with competing at home for conference," Flint continued. "It's exciting, mixed with a little bit of nervousness, but mostly excited. It's hard to contain your emotions and wait until competition, but we are really excited to be competing at home and it's going to be a lot of fun."
The Colorado State men's squad, which won the 2017 MW Indoor Track & Field Championship, enter this week's meet ranked No. 15 in the nation by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association. The Rams are the lone ranked team in the league.
Four men's programs and eight women's teams return event champions from last season.
Senior AJ Boully is the reigning MW champion in the 400m hurdles. The native of Boise, Idaho, ranks first in the conference and seventh in the nation in that event with a time of 49.58.
Wright is looking to defend his 2016 MW title in the javelin, but his teammate, redshirt freshman Sindri Gudmundsson, leads the conference and ranks eighth in the nation in the event with a school-record mark of 73.06m (239-8).
Junior Clay Lambourne leads the MW and ranks 15th in the nation in the 800m this season with a personal-best time of 1:47.31, which ranks second all-time in USU history. He is the defending outdoor champion in the event and also captured the title at the MW Indoor Championships back in February.
Senior Mia Estes captured the women's javelin title in 2016, but won't get to defend her crown after suffering a season-ending injury earlier this season.
The men's 4x400m relay team consisting of senior Boully, senior Joshua Gordon, junior Brady Martin and freshman Michael Bluth ranks first in the MW and 35th in the nation with a time of 3:06.72.
Real-time scoring and results, along with post-race interviews, event highlights and photo galleries from the 2017 MW Outdoor Track & Field Championships will be available on the Championship Central page of TheMW.com. Additionally, all four days of the meet will be broadcast live and free of charge on the Mountain West Network. The MWN will live stream the Decathlon and Heptathlon on Wednesday and Thursday in addition to all of the track events during the week.
All-session tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for senior citizens and youth (14 years old and under). Single-day tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and youth. Wednesday's events are free of charge.
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. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
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