Top 25-ranked BYU track teams look to continue early success

The BYU men’s and women’s track teams head into their third meet of the season ranked in the newly-released U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll. The men’s team is ranked No. 4 and the women’s team is No. 24.

Both track teams are looking to use the rankings as a source of motivation at the UW Preview and Weber State Invitational, both of which start on Friday, Jan. 29.

“That’s that goal we have, we always say we want to be a top-20 team,” said men’s and women’s throws coach Nik Arrhenius. “It’s great. It’s motivating.”

Men’s track and field

Several Cougars on the men’s team have placed in the top three in their events this season.

Junior sprinter Easton Bianchi has placed in the top two in each of the 60-meter and 200-meter events he has raced in this season, three of which were first-place finishes. In Bianchi’s first meet of the season at the BYU Indoor Invite, he ran a personal record of 6.72 in the 60-meter and 21.51 in the 200-meter.

“It felt amazing just because of all the hard work me and my teammates have been putting in. I knew it was going to happen. My coach expected that time for me,” Bianchi said. “Being able to hit her expectations and my expectations, it felt really good. I was jumping around and screaming.”

Overcoming injuries has made the success Bianchi has experienced in the first two meets even sweeter.

“My first two years I was plagued with injuries. It took a lot of time to grind, to do a lot of self-care, get my body right and get my mind right,” Bianchi said. “I felt like I was due this year. It’s about time, we’re getting some wins, finally.”

Junior distance runner Conner Mantz dominated in his only 3,000-meter race of the season so far, taking first place with a 7:58.03 time. Mantz’s time is the best in the country.

Sophomore pole vaulter Zach McWorther has placed first in both events of the season. The All-American has improved his mark each meet, clearing a season-best 5.56 at the Air Force Invitational.

Junior jumper and sprinter Conner Kennedy placed first in the long jump at the Air Force Invitational. Kennedy jumped 7.34 meters, improving his mark by .17 meter from the previous week.

The men’s mile relay team impressed at the first two meets of the season, particularly at the Air Force Invitational. Seniors Colten Yardley and Michael Bluth, freshman Eli Hazlett and junior Cortez Ruiz all contributed to a 3:12.87 time, nearly five seconds faster than second place.

Bluth and Ruiz also ran the 400-meter at the Air Force Invitational, taking first and third, respectively.

Women’s track and field

Junior sprinter Jaslyn Gardner and senior thrower Sierra Freeland have stood out in their events, claiming first place in their first two events of the season.

Gardner has out-raced the competition so far this season in the 60-meter competition, clocking in the 7.3-seconds range in both meets. Gardner, the BYU record holder in the 60-meter race, broke her own record in the team’s first meet of the season, posting a 7.31 time.

Freeland has been dominant in the shot put this season, throwing a personal record of 15.51 meters at the BYU Indoor Invite, good for ninth all-time in BYU history.

“I’m hoping to move up the top-10 board again, whether it be this week or next week,” Freeland said after the Air Force Invitational.

Freeland’s marks this season in the shotput have been impressive given the impact of COVID-19 on preseason preparation, according to Arrhenius.

“The fact that Sierra got back to where she was, and a little better, is a good sign of her work ethic,” Arrhenius said. “With no outdoor season, limited training during the summer and a fall training that wasn’t optimal, she still has been able to get beyond where she’s ever been before.”

The women’s mile relay team impressed in its first outing of the season, securing first place at the Air Force Invitational.

In the women’s mile run, freshman Meri Dunford took first with a 5:15.00 at the BYU Indoor Invite. She did not run the mile at the Air Force Invitational.

Two women pole vaulters have gotten first place for the Cougars this season. Freshman Hannah Richardson placed first, clearing 3.90 meters at the BYU Indoor Invitational. Not to be outdone, junior Isabel Neal cleared 4.01 meters at the Air Force Invitational, taking first in the process.

Upcoming meet information

Sprints and horizontal jumps have this weekend off, giving the spotlight to distance running, vertical jumps and throws.

The distance runners will head to the UW Preview, while the throwers and vertical jumpers travel within Utah to the Weber State Indoor Invitational. Both meets start on Friday, Jan. 29.

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