Utes host track at Olympic Oval

Utah track kicked off its indoor season last weekend with triumphant results at the first Oval Open at the Kearns Olympic Oval. The Utes scored five official first-place finishes during the unique two-day format. The meet was chaotic, featuring both high school and collegiate track and field athletes from all across Utah, but the meet came off without a hitch.

Utah’s five first-place individual finishes on the women’s side marked one of the best finishes for a Ute squad, but the undermanned men’s squad failed to score any first-place finishes.

Junior Nellie Hammons led the way for the Utes with an official first-place finish in the 800 meters (2:12.15), and an unofficial first in the 1,500-meters (5:13.09). The official first was won by a post collegiate athlete.

Hammons’ times in both events were markedly faster than last year’s opening day times, giving Hammons a good feeling about the upcoming year.

“I was really happy about my times,” she said. “They were faster than they were last year, and that’s a positive sign.”

Also scoring first-place finishes for the Utes were Jen Jackman, winner of the 400 meters (57.16), Tracy Hamblin, winner of the pole vault with a height of 5.46 meters and Becky Riddle, who won the shot put with a distance of 12.62 meters. The U women also scored a win in the 4 x 400 meter relay.

The top men’s finisher was Delfino Arevalo, who placed third in the 3,000 meters with a time of 8:44.52.

Utah track athletes have grown accustomed to having all of their meets take place away from home, but the construction of the Kearns Olympic Oval for the 2002 Winter Olympics gave the team a local venue. Since then, the team has had a chance to experience the thrill of competing at ‘home.’

“It’s awesome to have meets at the Oval,” Hammons said. “You get a lot of support from other teams at the U and you have your family and friends. It’s just nice to have a place you can call home.”

The two-day format had the potential to be a mess, but the meet ended up as an extremely well-managed endeavor. With athletes from several high schools and at least four universities in attendance, things seemed a bit out of control at times, but start times were consistently on time and athletes ended up, for the most part, where they needed to be.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how well the tournament was run,” Hammons said. “Usually when you have a meet that mixes high schoolers with collegiate athletes, it gets really backed up. But this meet was right on time. We even finished early.”

Next weekend, the Utes head to Ogden for the annual Weber State Invitational.

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