Wow. The ACU Wildcats went out in style.
In its first, last and only appearance in the Lone Star Conference indoor track and field championships, Abilene Christian University swept both team titles Sunday afternoon in dramatic fashion at the league's first indoor meet.
The women's team won its first LSC track and field crown since the 2008 outdoor meet with a decisive 150-98 advantage over runner-up West Texas A&M. Angelo State, winner of the last four outdoor titles, was third with 95 points.
The men, trailing Texas A&M-Kingsville during much of Sunday's 11 finals, edged ahead of the Javelinas with two events remaining by two points, 125 to 123. And head coach 's team held off Kingsville in the triple jump and 4x400 relay to win, 149-142.
West Texas A&M, host of the LSC outdoor championships May 2-4 in Canyon, was third with 131.
Abilene Christian is leaving the LSC in 2013 after 40 years to return to NCAA Division I in track and field in the Southland Conference.
“This has been a long, hard fight,” Lofton said of the women's battle to unseat the Rambelles. “We've tried to do this outdoors the last three years. I felt this was the group to do it. I told the girls that we may not be the deepest team, but we're the most talented.”
The Wildcat women's team – 14 members strong – won six individual events and the concluding 4x400 relay (3:45.41 – only 10 ACU foursomes have ever been timed faster indoors).
Amanda Ouedraogo won the triple jump – perhaps the meet's premier event featuring the top two athletes in NCAA Division II – and established an ACU record with 43 feet, 0.5 inches. Her winning jump came on her final attempt to surpass defending Division II outdoor champion Kearah Danville of Angelo State.
Reyare Thomas was a double winner in the 55 (6.96) and 200 (23.97 to lead a 1-2-3 finish for 24 points), and she took the second assignment on the relay. Elea Diarra won the 400 (55.47) and anchored the relay after opening 400s by Shennae Steele, Thomas and Ayesha Rumble.
Lofton's other LSC women's champions were Lexus Williams in the 55 hurdles (8.16) and Shalaina Lakey in Saturday's weight throw.
“We got a lot of big points across the board,” Lofton continued. “I'm proud of them.”
In addition to maintaining her lead in Division II, the triple jump by Ouedraogo puts her equal to sixth on the 2013 NCAA Division I indoor list.
Danville led from the first round in the triple jump, and she saved her best (42-6.25 or 12.96 meters) for last. But the Wildcat senior, trailing with 41-6 (or 12.65 meters), responded. She leaped an indoor personal best of 13.12 meters to overtake Danville and give the ACU women 10 more points.
“It was good,” the French athlete said. “I enjoyed it. I was fighting for first place. I knew I had to get 10 points for my team.”
Ouedraogo was taking a safe approach on her first five jumps – including fouls in the first and third rounds.
“I asked my coach if I could take some risk (on the final attempt),” she said. “I wanted to jump farther than that. Forty-three was the minimum. I know I can do it. I'm struggling some with my run-through now. I have to fix it with my coach before nationals (March 8-9 indoors in Birmingham, Ala.).”
The Wildcat men's team, winner of the last 19 LSC outdoor titles, captured five individual events and the 4x400 relay. It was a determined effort by the 4x400 relay team of Osei Allyene-Forte, Johnathan Farquarshon, Bango Jayesimi and Jordan Geary and triple jump points from runner-up Darian Hogg (Wildcat wide receiver in football with 47-11.25) and freshmen Jeremy Tatham and Malcolm Barnes that closed the deal.
Ten of Lofton's 23 men here are freshmen.
“We have so many young guys,” Lofton said. “I told them, 'You freshmen are going to have to step up,' and they did. They were huge.
“I told them this was going to be a dogfight. We won last year outdoors by only six points over Kingsville. They have a lot of people back, and West Texas A&M is improved. We don't have a dominant group of upperclass guys,” he added.
From the upperclass group, Geary won the 200 (21.25) and 400 (48.22) and pulled the 4x400 team to victory in the final 10 meters by passing Kingsville anchor Anthony Washington on the inside to finish in 3:15.62 to the Javelinas' 3:16.17.
From the freshman group, Luke Woods was a surprise winner in the heptathlon with 4,520 points after heavily favored teammates Parker Petty and Matthew Stark failed to clear a height in the pole vault to receive no points and fall to fourth (Stark) and fifth (Petty).
The misses by Petty and Stark likely cost them scores of at least 5,000 points.
The Wildcat men also had wins from the freshman Farquarshon in the 55 (by the narrowest of margins in 6.32) and Baptiste Kerjean in Saturday's weight throw.
Geary, who was the outstanding runner in the 2012 LSC outdoor meet, raced three times Sunday and crossed the finish line first every time.
“I just had to have faith in myself that I would make it through the day,” he said. “Our coach said it would come down to the 4x4 and the triple jump. We had to give it all we had to win, and that's what happened.”
Of the final 10 meters of the relay, Geary said Washington likely expected Geary to try to pass to Washington's outside shoulder so Washington drifted outside – allowing Geary sufficient room to surprise Washington by passing on the inside.
Information provided by ACU athletics department.