UTEP Women Take 10th, Men 13th at NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
June 14, 2008
UTEP's Blessing Okagbare and Nelly Tchayem took two of the top three spots in the women's triple jump final as the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships came to a close on Saturday at Drake Stadium.
The UTEP women scored 25 points for a 10th-place team finish, their best ever at the national outdoor meet. The men tied for 13th place with 21 points.
"I think it was a really good national championship for both the men and the women," UTEP coach Bob Kitchens said. "When you've got a national champion and 13 All-Americans, that's a pretty good showing I think. It's a tribute to our kids and our assistant coaches. It shows that we have some really good balance in our men's and women's program. We've been trying to build that balance, and we've finally got it."
Kitchens has now led UTEP to 14 top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships in 20 years as head coach - seven outdoor men, five indoor men, one outdoor women and one indoor women.
Okagbare was the national runner-up in the triple with a wind-aided best of 14.01m (45-11 3/4), and Tchayem notched a third-place showing with a wind-aided mark of 13.82m (45-4 1/4). Both marks were personal bests and Okagbare eclipsed her own school record in the event.
Stanford's Erica McLain was the national champion in the event with a top performance of 14.60m (47-11), which would have broken the American record had it not been wind-aided.
Okagbare caps a spectacular first year at UTEP by earning three All-American honors at the national outdoor meet. She was second in the triple jump, third in the long jump and ran the final leg on the Miners' sixth-place 4x100 meter relay. Okagbare was a five-time All-American this season, with two accolades indoors.
Elias Koech picked up a fifth-place showing in the men's 800 meters final on Saturday with a time of 1:47.85 for the third All-American honor of his career.
Keisha Walkes also ended her career as an All-American, scoring two points by finishing seventh in the women's shot put final. Walkes had a best of 16.37m (53-8 1/2), shattering her own school record of 16.29m (53-5 1/2) which she set in Thursday's prelims.
Eleven Miners earned a total of 13 All-American honors at this year's meet - Mickael Hanany (men's high jump), Halimat Ismaila (women's 4x100 meter relay), Koech, Patrick Mutai (men's 3,000 meter steeplechase), Japheth Ng'ojoy (men's 10,000 meters), Okagbare, Shalaiyah Sommerville (women's 4x100 relay), Tchayem, Alex van der Merwe (men's javelin), Walkes and Quashanda Welch (women's 4x100 relay).
LSU won the women's title and Florida State was the champion on the men's side.