Shock and Awe at the Big Sky Championships

Portland State’s track and field squad didn’t have the pieces this season to win a Big Sky Conference Championship as a team. With that said, the last thing the Vikings were going to do was lie down in one of the biggest meets of the season for their athletes.

Instead, head coach Ronnye Harrison and the remainder of his coaching staff gave the team two words, a mantra that the Vikings hoped would set the tone at a conference championship where not many expected much out of them.

“Our theme was shock and awe,” assistant coach Johnathan Marcus said. “We had a lot of surprising things happen, a lot of unique things happen and a lot of first-time things happened. Our athletes achieved [shock and awe].”

Even if this Vikings squad didn’t see the sort of results they have become accustomed to in previous years on the women’s side, PSU saw some individual performances that delivered the level of shock and awe that the coaching staff was talking about on the way in.

It started with two Big Sky Champions: senior Sarah Dean and junior Jazmin Ratcliff. Dean won the 1,500 meter race in a landslide over her competitors, beating second place by over three seconds.

“She’s the first ever distance runner to win a Big Sky title in Portland State history. Shock and awe,” Marcus said.

Rafcliff finished first in two events. As an individual she won the 100 meter hurdles, an event she has excelled in over her entire career as a Viking. Ratcliff also currently holds the Big Sky Conference record for the event, a record she set in the preliminary round of the conference championships.

Ratcliff also helped the PSU 4×100 relay team win the conference title with a school record time of 45.11 seconds. The junior sprinter was the only returning relay member for the Vikings, which made the inexperienced squad’s win that much more surprising and gratifying.

“All of those things. Shock and awe,” Marcus said. “That was the mission. We knew going in we didn’t have a team that was going to win, because we intentionally red-shirted some people, including some distance runners, because it was a tough elevation for the distance folk. But leaving the meet we were very happy with the outcome.”

The women finished the meet with 89 points, earning them fourth place. The men finished with 29.5 points, earning them tenth place. For the men, their point total was their best overall since 2010, when they finished with 30 points.

Junior Sheldon Prince led the men with a third place finish in the 400 meters. Sophomore Michael Kubisiak and freshman Gifton Okoronkwo both added to the men’s final point total with seventh place finishes, in the 100 meters and triple jump respectively.

For most of the Vikings the season is over. But for some, the opportunity to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championship relies on their performance at the NCAA West Preliminary in Fayetteville, Arkansas. That group includes Dean and Ratcliff.

The action in Arkansas takes place Thursday through Saturday. Marcus hopes the Vikings will continue their theme of the season in Arkansas.

“It has been a really fun season, and everyone is looking forward to more shock and awe at the regional championships.”