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Track, field team competes at WIAC outdoor championships

May 8, 2014

The UW-River Falls men’s and women’s track and field teams competed at the WIAC outdoor championships on Friday and Saturday in Oshkosh, Wis. Both teams finished in eighth place, but two Falcons set school records, one placed first and countless others set season highs and qualified for the national tournament.

The lone Falcon to place first was sophomore and long-distance runner Beth Riihinen, who earned first all-WIAC honors. Riihinen, who competes in the 10,000 meter run, finished the race with a time of 37:32.39.

“We had a race plan going in and Beth ran it to perfection,” said Scott Sekelsky, assistant coach and distance coordinator. “She was not going after a personal record but rather an individual conference championship. She stayed patient and ran a great race, I am very proud of her.”

Beth Riihinen runs a 10,000-meter run and was the only athlete to finish in first place the Falcons received this past weekend.
Beth Riihinen runs a 10,000-meter run and was the only athlete to finish in first place the Falcons received this past weekend. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Cole)

Riihinen is on the bubble to make the national tournament, which is being hosted by Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, but could still qualify. There are two more weeks for UWRF student-athletes to qualify; this week the Falcons will be in La Crosse, Wis., for the UW-La Crosse Eagle Open.

On the men’s side, sophomore sprinter David Paynotta had a record-setting Saturday in the 100-meter dash. Paynotta placed third in the race with a time of 10.64, breaking the school record of 10.74, previously held by Leon Headley (1962) and Gary Gray (1973). Paynotta has qualified to compete in the national tournament.

“My starts felt great for each race—that allowed for a strong finish,” Paynotta said. “All the credit goes to Coach Cole and the workouts that he prepares for us each week. What he does is working very well for us.”

Paynotta, who also shares the 4×100-meter relay school record with three teammates, placed fourth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.9. Besting Paynotta was junior sprinter Jordan Crockett, who placed second with a time of 21.69, earning him second team all-WIAC honors.

“We were very excited and pleased to see David’s performance,” said Matthew Cole, head coach. “David’s going to nationals. I feel pretty comfortable about that.”

Crockett currently holds the 200-meter dash school record, set in 2012 as a freshman. Crockett’s time should be enough to qualify for the national tournament, while Paynotta’s time will be on the bubble.

Paynotta was not the only sprinter to break a school record. Senior sprinter Kimberly Lueck broke a 7-year-old 100-meter hurdles record held by Jessica Reed. Lueck’s time of 14.67 was nearly a full second better than her previous season best. Lueck placed fifth in the race, making it clear how difficult the WIAC is this season.

“Kim had a great race,” Cole said. “She really ran well in the preliminaries, and had an outstanding final race. She’s really high right now in the national rankings.”

Lueck has likely qualified for the national tournament, currently sitting in 26th place.

Both the men’s and women’s teams placed eighth out of nine teams, but Cole says that there is reason for optimism.

“I thought we competed well; they were relentless in their efforts,” he said. “I was very pleased how our student-athletes scored. I’m seeing good things.”

Freshman sprinter Sherahlynn Linkert placed fifth in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:06.26, and senior middle-distance runner Amanda Rothbauer capped off her WIAC career with a sixth-place finish in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:15.67. Rothbauer should qualify for the national tournament.

Senior Stephanie Walek had a solid Friday afternoon, placing third in the javelin throw with a distance of 128-10. Walek also finished eighth in the pole vault with a jump of 10-7, tying a season best. Walek will likely qualify for the national tournament as a javelin thrower, her specialty. Freshman Riley Claude placed sixth in the pole vault with a jump of 11-1, which tied a career best.

Sophomore sprinter Matt Griffin set a season high in the 400-meter hurdles preliminary run on Friday with a time of 54.44. Griffin earned fourth place with a run of 54.67 on Saturday. He is in good shape to make the national tournament.

Paynotta, Crockett, sophomore Tucker Malecha and freshman John Maillette finished fifth in the 4×100- meter relay with a season-high run of 42.21. The foursome is currently 0.07 seconds away from qualifying for the national tournament.

“I’m really looking for our men’s 4×100 to qualify,” Cole said. “This week and next week is our true test, and I think we can.”

Paynotta, who is looking to qualify for three national events, said that his relay team is confident heading into the next two weeks of qualifying.

“Our 4×100 team is coming along great,” Paynotta said. “We hope to be competing at the national meet in a few weeks.”

The WIAC outdoor championship was won by UW-La Crosse. The UW-La Crosse men’s track and field team has now won the WIAC championship a record 24 straight seasons. The women have won three straight. Playing in such a tough conference can often bring out the best in the competitors.

“The WIAC is the greatest Division III conference in the nation,” Paynotta said. “And that competition elevates all of our performances.”