Wetmore-Wednesday Top Races: Men Win 2008 Big 12 Outdoor Championship
BOULDER – The Colorado track and field and cross country program has a special history, one that began to hit full-stride under head coach Mark Wetmore.
CU track and field and cross country will take a look back at every year under Wetmore and recap the best races and teams of every calendar year.
The University of Colorado hosted the 2008 Big 12 Outdoor Track & Field Championship at Potts Field in Boulder. It was the first time CU was hosting a conference track and field meet since 1993 when the Buffs were in the Big Eight.
The return of a conference championship event was an exciting experience for the community, but what made it even more special was the fact the men's team was in the running for the team championship with every event area contributing. As expected, the Buffs dominated the distance races, recording 65 of the possible 78 points in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races, and edged out the eventual national champion, Texas A&M, to win their first track and field conference title since 1957.
BUFFS WIN FIRST BIG 12 OUTDOOR TRACK & FIELD TITLE
The odds of having everything come together perfectly at the same time are not very high. But just because they are not likely to happen at once, doesn't mean they won't.
For the CU men's track and field team in 2008, everything was coming together at the right time. The Buffs were hosting the Big 12 Outdoor Championship at Potts Field in front of large home crowds. They entered the meet ranked 11th in the nation, their highest-ever ranking (at the time), behind Texas A&M (first) and Texas (10th). They returned several upperclassmen throughout a variety of events who had the experience and the ability to score points for the team.
"We had such a great team," remembers Brent Vaughn, a distance runner from the squad. "Those years the sprinters, throwers, everyone; we were all friends and spent so much time together. We were all so close and combined for such a special group."
And the altitude. Don't forget the altitude. It was an advantage that could only assist the Buffs in the distance events that they already dominated, having won every Big 12 Cross Country title since 1996. With all of those factors, this was going to be a championship to remember.
Everything came together for the Buffs May 16-18, 2008, but they had to work for it because nothing comes easy.
A championship is never won on the first day, although the Buffaloes tried their best to do just that. There were only two men's finals on day one, the hammer throw and the 10,000-meter run. CU did not record any points in the hammer throw but would take 33 of the 39 possible points in the 10k to head into the second day of action with the lead.
The Buffs seized the top five spots in the race and were led by Kenyon Neuman, who won his first conference 10k in 30 minutes, 40.78 seconds. He led a very close herd of Buffaloes as Bradley Harkrader placed second (30:40.98), Matt Tebo finished third (30:41.22), Chris Pannone was fourth (30:41.25) and Richard Medina placed fifth (30:44.47).
They all ran a very smart race knowing that if they worked together, they could get some good points on the scoresheet.
"We started out with a pace, at altitude, that we knew we could maintain based on conversions," Neuman said following the race. "Once we saw that people fell off, we were going to slow it down so we could save ourselves for the 5k."
[Editor's note: The 5k would be run two days later on the third day.]
After the first night of competition, Wetmore was happy, especially given the fact it was the time four of those Buffs, Neuman, Harkrader, Tebo and Medina, had ever run a 10k.
"Only one of the guys has ever run the 10k before, and I kept reminding them to stay patient and stay controlled," Wetmore said. "A novice at that distance, at this elevation, even if you train here, racing here is a whole different animal and they could still blow it up if you aren't comfortable. I think they were reminding each other to be patient and not get greedy."
Leading Missouri 33-20 after the first day, CU knew the second day was important. Most of the preliminary events would be contested on May 17, so to compete on Sunday, the Buffs would have to make it through on Saturday.
Stephen Pifer qualified for the 1,500-meter finals. Jeremy Dodson advanced to the 100 and 200-meter finals, while Ryan Campbell also advanced in the 200 for CU.
There were final events on Saturday, and in those events, the Buffs recorded much needed points. Hugh Charles placed fourth in the long jump (25-2.75), while James Begley scored for the first time at a conference meet, finishing fifth in the shot put with a PR (56-4.50).
With points from both Charles and Begley, the Buffs were up to 42, which was now second place. Missouri had taken a slight advantage over CU, leading the field with 45 points. Several schools had 20 or fewer points, including Texas A&M, but the finals in all of the sprints, which the Aggies excelled at, would be contested on the third day. Everyone knew the final day would be exciting given there was still plenty of competition left.
The Buffs wasted no time on the final day, recording points in the first event as Brandin Williams placed third in the javelin (210-4). He was ranked 13th on paper heading into the meet but used a huge personal best throw to score six points.
The first event on the track was the men's 4x100-meter relay and CU's men impressed, breaking a 36-year-old school record (36.60) en route to a third-place finish (39.59). The quartet of Charles, Campbell, Nate Terry and Dodson finally defeated a record they had been gunning for all season, and also qualified for regionals in the process.
Billy Nelson won the first individual title of the day, winning his second 3,000-meter steeplechase in 8:53.84, which was a stadium record. Teammate Pete Janson placed third (9:19.33), giving the Buffs 16 points in the event. Following the steeplechase was the 1,500 where Pifer recorded a second-place finish (3:43.65).
The distance events were collecting points where they were expected and now it was time for the sprints to take center stage. Dodson was going to run in both the 100 and 200 finals, just over an hour apart. The first event was the 100. He clocked in at 10.27 for third place, which was a PR and ranked fifth in school history at the time. Then in the 200, he set another school record, finishing in 20.37 for second place. Campbell also ran in the 200 and placed eighth (20.99) for an additional point.
One of the most pleasant surprises of the day, and the entire championship, was discus. After scoring in his first conference meet the day before, Begley took home top honors in the discus (173-01) and became CU's first champion in the event since 1998.
"Words can't describe what I'm feeling right now," Begley said after his performance. "I just hope that the 10 points will go to some good to get a team championship. I know it's going to be a tight race and I don't think anyone put me as getting 10 points."
Two events, the 5k and 4x400-meter relay, remained on the track and both would have a huge impact on the team standings.
The 5,000 was similar to the first night's 10k. Colorado recorded 32 of 39 points. The Buffs took six of the top seven spots in the race as Brent Vaughn recorded his third outdoor 5k title in stadium record time (14:26.20). Neuman, who won the 10k two days before, placed second (14:22.61). The other Buffs to place in the top eight were Medina (fourth), Pifer (fifth), Harkrader (sixth) and Tebo (seventh).
In the last event, the 4x400, CU recorded a sixth-place finish with Terry, Campbell, Adrian Gomez and Dodson combining for the effort. And it was enough to keep the Texas A&M Aggies at bay as the Buffs won the championship 138-121.
When it all comes together, there's no greater feeling.
"I'm afraid I've used up my luck for the rest of my life," Wetmore said following the championship. "Not only did the team do everything they possibly could, everything turned out here so well. So many people contributed.
"We're known as a cross country team. We're known as a distance powerhouse, but it is really critical that the team knows and the community knows that we would not have done this if we came in with just distance runners. A track team is really quite fragmented until they come together at this meet."
After the championship was over, members of the team grabbed the Gatorade cooler (filled with water) and went in search of Wetmore. When they found him, they dumped the cooler over their beloved coach.
"I remember getting Wetmore with the Gatorade after we won," Vaughn said recently. "I don't think he was happy, but I think we definitely earned the right that day."
PAST TOP RACES:
2007: VAUGHN WINS 3 BIG 12 TITLES; BARRINGER TURNS DISAPPOINTMENT INTO FIRST U.S. CHAMPIONSHIP
2006: BARRINGER'S STEEPLECHASE LEGACY BEGINS; MEN'S XC WINS SECOND NCAA TITLE IN THREE YEARS
2005: METIVIER WINS INDOOR 3K; SLATTERY TAKES 10K TITLE
2004: BUFFS WIN MEN'S AND WOMEN'S NCAA CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
2003: RITZENHEIN RACES TO THE TITLE (FINISH VIDEO)
2002: TORRES CEMENTS LEGACY (VIDEO)
2001: CU MEN CAPTURE FIRST TITLE (VIDEO)
2000: KARA GRGAS-WHEELER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
1999: JAMES DAVIS 1999 4x400-METER RELAY ALL-AMERICAN
1998: ADAM GOUCHER 1998 CROSS COUNTRY NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (VIDEO) (5,000) (3,000)
1997: ADAM GOUCHER INDOOR 3,000 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
1996: ALAN CULPEPPER NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP 5,000/ WOMEN'S BIG EIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP