Wetmore-Wednesday Top Races: Hunsucker Earns NCAA Runner-up Finish IN Hammer Throw; Men’s XC Races To Second-Straight NCAA Title
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.
Senior Emily Hunsucker wrapped up her stellar throwing career with a runner-up finish in the hammer throw at the NCAA Championships on June 11 in Eugene, Ore. Although she officially became the CU record holder in the event in 2013, she broke the record in the spring of 2014 and it still stands.
But there was more happening that year in Boulder. In the fall, the CU men's cross country team captured their fourth-straight Pac-12 Conference title and their second consecutive NCAA Championship.
HUNSUCKER QUIETLY RISES TO THE TOP
Entering the 2014 track and field season, senior Emily Hunsucker was the school record holder in the hammer throw. She had broken the 15-year-older record set by Janet Visosky of 196-10 (5/15/98) on March 30, 2013, with a toss of 197-08 and would break it three most times that year, ending the campaign with a record of 207-10 or 63.35 meters, which came at the NCAA West Preliminary Championships. That toss had propelled her to the NCAA Championships where she placed ninth overall to earn second team All-America honors (204-08/62.38m).
Hunsucker continued to work hard. She was one of the most successful throwers in recent years for the Buffs, but she knew she could accomplish more in the event with one season of eligibility remaining.
The Arvada, Colo., native, worked hard in the offseason and came out of the gate strong in the first meet of the outdoor season in 2014, launching another personal best and school record of 212-11/64.91m at the Jerry Quiller Classic on March 21 in Boulder. That mark came on her first throw of the day. She finished out her series with a foul, 212-05, 212-05, 201-09 and 208-03.
After finishing seventh at the 2013 Pac-12 Championship, Hunsucker moved up to fourth in 2014. Her mark improved almost six feet, going from 199-00 in 2013, to 204-10 in 204-10 in 2014. It was a bit of a disappointment as she was the top-ranked thrower in the conference heading into the meet in Pullman, Wash., but there was no time to dwell on the disappointment.
The NCAA West Preliminary Round was next in Fayetteville, Ark., and there Hunsucker let the nation know she was not playing around. She came in as the No. 3 seed and registered a throw of 210-01 on her first toss, which would be the best mark of the day.
"Emily opened up right away with a really big mark, and maybe she put some fear into her opponents," Wetmore said. "I could tell she was sky-high, Casey (Malone) really had her ready. Even her fouls exceeded 200 feet, both around 204, 205; she was impeccable. She looked great and I'm thrilled for her."
"I had a rough (Pac-12) conference meet a couple of weeks ago," Hunsucker said following prelims. "I went in on top and didn't end up where I wanted (she finished fourth). But I think without that challenge, I wouldn't have got to where I did today. I was maybe just a little too comfortable, so I reassessed things and had a great week of practice. This really was the NCAA round one, and all I wanted to do was get to the next round."
With the finish, she punched her ticket to NCAAs for the second straight year. The hammer throw was contested on the first day of events in Eugene, Ore., and Hunsucker was able to make that June 11 a good one for CU, picking up eight points for the team with a second-place finish.
She started off with a mark of 203-05, but her second toss was better at 211-11. She finished the flight with a foul, but her second throw of the day was enough to move her into the finals. Hunsucker recorded a foul on her fourth attempt. Her fifth attempt (204-02) did not improve her position. She saved the best for last, launching a mark of 212-08 to secure the runner-up position. In doing so, she became the fourth thrower in CU history to earn any kind of All-America mention, joining Melisa Weis (shot put/discus) as the only CU women to earn the distinction twice in back-to-back meets (1993 and '94).
"My performance was consistent at a high level and that's what exactly needed to happen today," Hunsucker said. "I came out with a big throw on the second one and that held up through the finals, and then increased it on my very last throw of my collegiate career, which was exciting! My biggest goal this year was to be an All-American. All-in-all, it was just a great day."
"She was happy and having fun the whole time, smiling and high-fiving Casey after big throw after big throw," Wetmore said after the meet. "If anybody deserves it, a big performance like this, it is Emily. She's such a wonderful, young woman. Casey's worked so hard and been patient and brought her along so carefully. We're all sky-high over her performance."
MEN'S CROSS COUNTRY WINS SECOND STRAIGHT NCAA TITLE
After winning the 2013 NCAA Men's Cross Country Championship, Colorado was primed for another great season in 2014. The Buffs defeated Northern Arizona 149-169 and returned three All-Americans from that team. Blake Theroux was the only senior All-American returning, while Pierce Murphy was a junior. Ben Saarel was entering his sophomore season and had led CU as a freshman with an eighth-place finish.
If that were not enough, CU also had Jake Hurysz returning to the lineup after redshirting the 2013 season. He was an All-American in 2012, which put the All-American total at four. And if you know the Buffaloes, you know the talent runs deep, and in this particular year, there was no shortage of talent looking to make the varsity team.
(It is important to note Morgan Pearson was an All-American in 2013 but redshirted the 2014 season.)
As the defending national champion, the Buffaloes were the preseason favorite in the USTFCCCA poll and they did not do anything to disprove the rankings. In fact, they lived up to the hype. In every race, CU could not be touched.
CU hosted its annual Rocky Mountain Shootout at Buffalo Ranch and the men recorded a perfect score (15). Theroux led the team, finishing the 8-kilometer run in 24:24, which was the third-fastest time in course history. He became the first back-to-back champion in over 10 years.
"We expected to run well and these were perfect [weather] conditions," Theroux explained. "Mark [Wetmore] said these were the best conditions he has ever seen. We were really good and I think we showed that today. If other teams look at these results they are going to be scared and they should be scared. This is a dream team for us and we are really pumped for the season. It's a great way to start."
At the first big varsity race of the season, Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., the top-rated Buffaloes stampeded to a 35-91 victory over No. 2 Oregon. CU put six in the top 15 and was once again led by Theroux, who was the runner-up. Saarel was fourth and Ammar Moussa placed eighth. Hurysz finished ninth and Murphy rounded out the scoring at 12th. Connor Winter recorded a great finish as well for CU, placing 14th.
"We had six in the top 15," Wetmore said. "We couldn't have asked for better than that. It was a real nice race for Blake, finishing just a couple of seconds behind the defending national champion and then a herd came in not long behind him. It was a good showing for the men."
The Buffs continued to be ranked on top of the polls and entered the Pac-12 Championship as the three-time defending champion, winning the 2013 title in Boulder. California was hosting the meet in 2014 and the target was on CU's back. But that did not matter as CU added to its trophy case, defeating No. 2 Oregon 30-57.
The men finished in a pack, crossing the finish 4-5-6-7-8. Theroux led CU for the third time during the season and was followed by Winter, Moussa, Murphy and Saarel.
"It's fantastic," Theroux said of Friday's four-peat. "Obviously our goal is to win NCAAs, but to win the Pac-12 is a great stepping-stone for us and I hope we can stay focused and keep it going."
"Running together in a group really isn't something that we planned," Wetmore said. "People have asked me that before but running so close together is not a strategy. They're running five or six individual races, we're just evenly matched."
The NCAA Mountain Region Championships took place in Albuquerque, N.M., Nov. 14. CU again took the win, defeating No. 10 Northern Arizona 45-68. This time it was Winter who led CU, finishing fifth. All five of CU's scorers once again finished in the top 15 and the Buffs were primed for NCAAs just 10 days later.
It was no surprise the Buffaloes were unanimously ranked No. 1 heading into nationals, Nov. 22, in Terre Haute, Ind. In every race leading to NCAAs, they had been showing what they were capable of doing and no team seemed to be on the same level. It was time to put the rest of the cards on the table.
The Buffaloes did not disappoint that day on the LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course. CU put all five of its scorers in the top 40 to score 65 points and win its second title in as many years. The Buffs defeated the runner-up, No. 9 Stanford, by 33 points. CU's team score was the lowest score since 2005 when Wisconsin won with 37 points.
Moussa led CU with a fifth-place finish, while Saarel finished seventh and Theroux placed ninth. Winter came in 24th for CU, while Murphy was 35th. All five earned All-America honors for their top-40 finishes. It was the first All-America honor for Moussa and Winter, while it was the second for Murphy and Saarel. Theroux became just the 11th Buff in CU history to earn the award three times.
"This is probably our best team ever," Wetmore said. "Again, I had the team that came here with Jorge [Torres] who won and the team that followed it and great other individuals who were followed by good teams but not winners. Certainly, this is the best third, fourth and fifth we've ever had and certainly, I think it's the best team score that we've ever had. So, they are real good and they belong in the pantheon."
"I'm really proud of those guys," Wetmore went on to say. "It's is hard to be the favorites, it's so hard to have the attention. It's so hard for nine or 10 21-year-old men to keep their egos in check and they really did it. They were talking each other up the whole time. I think anyone of them would have sacrificed his day to have a bad day if it would have meant six good days for his teammates. So, that's the biggest feeling I have. Pride, not for me but pride for them."
PAST TOP RACES:
2013: COBURN FINISHES CAREER WITH PAIR OF TITLES
2012 (OLYMPIC EDITION): COBURN & KIPP MAKE OLYMPIC TEAM TOGETHER; REPRESENT CU AND USA AT LONDON GAMES
2012: KIPP CARRIES ON COLORADO LEGARY WITH A PAIR OF STEEPLECHASE TITLES
2011: COBURN WINS FIRST NCAA & U.S. TITLES; BUFFS MAKE STATEMENT WINNING INAUGURAL PAC-12 CROSS COUNTRY TITLES
2010: COBURN AND KIPP BECOME STRONG 1-2 IN THE STEEPLE; DODSON SPRINTS TO A STRONG FINISH
2009: BARRINGER BREAKS 6 COLLEGIATE RECORDS IN FINAL TRACK SEASON (VIDEO)
2008 (OLYMPIC EDITION): BARRINGER AND NELSON TAKE BEIJING OLYMPICS
2008: MEN WIN BIG 12 OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIP
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