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Loper runners have big day at MIAA Championships

Loper runner Andrew Fields poses with his first place medal. Fields won the 3,000 meter steeplechase race. (May 6, 2018) (KHGI)

Kearney, Ne. – Junior Andrew Fields won the steeplechase and Nebraska-Kearney had nine other top five finishes on the final day of the 2018 MIAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Sunday at Kearney High School.

With a big third day, both Pittsburg State Gorilla squads ran away from the field to win the team crowns. The Pitt women won a fourth straight title by tallying 191 points with the Gorilla men winning its fifth title in the last seven years (166.50). The Lincoln Blue Tigers (95.0) was the women's runner up with Central Missouri (103.50) second on the men's side.

Lincoln’s Diana Cauldwell was the top women's scorer with Pitt's NaRon Rollins the men's leader. Cauldwell won both the long and triple jumps with Rollins winning the 100 and 200 meter dashes.

For UNK, both teams greatly improved upon on last year's showing at this meet. The Loper men tallied 69 points to place sixth in a 12-team race; that's an improvement of two places and 25 points. The UNK women came in seventh (57) out of 13 teams and was just a point behind NW Missouri. That is four places higher and 27 points better than 2017.

Fields (Ord) came in as the MIAA's top performer in the steeple and showed why as he pretty much led from start to finish. Running with teammate Corbin Hansen (Deweese) most of the way, Fields broke away from the pack and then held off Pitt's Matthew Wilson to win in 9:25.33. Wilson turned in a 9:26.34.

This is UNK's fourth steeple title as Nick Knudson placed first from 2013-16. Hansen (3rd/9:28.44) and Papillion freshman Tyler Williams (7th/9:46.77) made this an 18-point event for the Lopers.

Blair senior Molly Dibben made sure the Loper women were well represented in the women's steeple as she placed second in 11:35.69. Ahead of the third place finisher by six seconds, Dibben was only behind Southwest Baptist's Stephanie Penticuf (11:22.10).

Next, Auburn senior Melissa Davison and Colorado junior Micheala Hoffman were double point scorers as Davison was runner up in the 1,50 (4:45.81) and seventh in the 800 (2:26.09). Hoffman was third in the 100 hurdles (14.35), sixth in the 400 hurdles (1:03.47) and ran lead on the 4x4 relay team (4:03.65) that came in ninth. That was one of three events UNK was a point shy of scoring on Sunday.

Finally on the women's side, Grand Island redshirt freshman Mackenize Puckett was eighth in the triple jump (career-best 39-2.25), Grand Island true freshman Alyssa Wells finished fifth in the javelin (career-best 133-1) and UNK had three of the top eight finishers in the hammer. They were Colorado sophomore Logan Prater (4th/163-3), Nelson senior Holly Bower (7th/159-7) and McCook redshirt freshman Tiara Schmidt (8th/155-2). On UNK's all-time top 10 list both Puckett and Wells move up to fourth place with today's efforts.

Back on the men's side, Lincoln senior Mandera Gatwech (5th/400; 48.43) and Lincoln sophomore Nate Pierce (5th/1,500; 3:57.88) both scored four team points with Gatwech the second leg of the sixth place 4x1 relay team (41.85). That netted UNK three more points. The Lopers were then ninth in the 4x4 relay (3:18.91).

In the field, McCook senior Marcus Gonzales came in eighth in the hammer with a career-best toss of 190-9. That places him 23rd nationally and fourth in UNK history. Finally, Florida freshman Montrez Jackson was sixth in the high jump (6-9.75). Three spots back in a ninth place tie were Deweese sophomore Trace Gordanier and Lincoln freshman Jacob Dowd (6-6.75).

Select Lopers will compete in "Last Chance" meets next weekend, including at Kearney High on Sunday, May 13 (Loper Last Chance Twilight).

Courtesy UNK Athletic Communications

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