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Courtesy: Kyle Terada/WCC

Bulldogs Turn In Strong Performances In 5000 Meters

Courtesy: Gonzaga Athletics
          Release: 04/27/2012
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            SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga University's men and women both turned in some outstanding performances in the twilight 5000 meters Friday at the Duane Hartman Invitational at Spokane Falls Community College.

            The only competition on the agenda Friday was the 5000 meters, with the remainder of the Duane Hartman Invitational being held Saturday at SFCC.

            Overall, Gonzaga assistant coach Patty Ley said the Bulldogs got what they were expecting out of the evening.

            "I think some of the kids will be a little disappointed in some of their times because they were one or two seconds off their PRs to this point, but the emphasis was on getting races," she explained. "We've done a lot of time trialing, focused on our splits and doing that kind of stuff, so I think they raced very, very well. They have to learn to not use time as the only measure of success. I think it was very successful evening."

            And the fans in attendance on a somewhat chilly night saw some hot finishes.

            In the men's 5000 meters 13 runners had time under 15 minutes, including five Bulldogs led by the 14:41.50 of Willie Milam who finished second and the 14:42.97 by Tate Kelly who finished third. Both were career bests, Milam's previous best of 14:52.05 coming on this same track nearly a month ago at WAR 5 and Kelly's 14:43.58 coming a year ago at this same meet.

            But the Zags weren't done there. Brent Felnagle was fourth in 14:47.34, Nate Gesell eighth in 14:52.57 and Robert Walgren ninth in 14:53.28. Kyle Branch just missed eclipsing the 15 minute barrier with his 15:00.50 for 14th place. Felnagle's mark was a career best.

            Bulldog assistant coach Patty Ley said eh men's 5000 was an interesting race.

            "They were going well, the leader was looking great and then everybody was rolling them up. I think a few more guys can get in that 14:40 range and we had a couple of guys being smooth and learning how to stay relaxed while it was going fast. They raced really well without focusing on the clock," Ley said.

            Milam and Tate hung with the leaders throughout.

            "Tate's a guy who has to be near the front, feel the front and feel it. He struggles a little at times with being smooth so it beats him up a little bit. Willie was sitting back a little further and he's just that racer who gets closer, closer and closer and is like I can see the front of this thing and let me take a shot at it. He's very confident in his speed at the end and runs tough in the middle," Ley noted.

            Dave Marks of Lewis-Clark State College claimed the race in 14:36.24.

            Maggie Jones and Kirsten Lightfoot stood out on the women's side as the Bulldogs had 10 of the top 16 finishers.

            Jones was second in 17:55.53 with Lightfoot third in 18:17.34 in a relatively slow race.

            "I thought Maggie and Kirsten raced very well.  It was kind of an odd race in going out fairly slowly and bouncing around a little bit. It's tough because they are just inexperienced enough to not have that feel of where they could be. I just talked to Kirsten about being conservative in her first 2000 meters and then started rolling really hard, rolled people up and ran a great second half. For her it's just a matter of putting together a first half and a second half and she's going to run great." Ley said.

            Ley said inexperience is also a factor with Jones.

            "She's so inexperienced as a freshman to do things on her own. As soon as she started lapping people you could see her come to life again and really drop time again. She just needs bodies there right now and that's just experience and it will come," Ley predicted.

            Of the top 10 Bulldog finishers, only Meghan Blanchet (18:49.31), Jaime Van Lith (19:02.96) and Jennifer Wheeler (19:22.91) set career bests. Wheeler lowered her mark by 22 seconds in breaking the 20-minute plateau for the first time.

            The women also had several runners competing in their inaugural collegiate 5000 meters.

            Ley said the women's "B" heat was a good race.

            "That was good for them. That group had some PRs or collegiate bests, and I guess the words I would use would be confidence builder," Ley said. "They've struggled a little bit more with injuries and illnesses and not quite getting there so far, so it as good for them to run that well."

            The group included Van Lith Teresa Makowski, Annelie Fjortoft, Stephanie Moore and Wheeler.

            Jared Christian, running in the men's "B" heat, turned in a strong performance, finishing second in the heat in 15:22.29 and using a strong kick the last 200 meters to close the gap.

            "Jared ran well. A gap developed, he got up there and the guy was kind of sitting on him. He's very quick and very confident in that speed. Four or five weeks ago he was hanging his head a little more after races and wondering if he was doing the right things. I think he's had some good confidence builders his last couple of races," Ley said.

            The races were broken down into the "A" and "B" heats with the times combined for the final placing.

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