The final turn

As the season comes to a close, the Portland State track and field team is completing the final turn and is swiftly gliding into the season’s final stretch. The majority of athletes on the Vikings’ track and field team are preparing for their final and most significant meet, the Big Sky Outdoor Championships. Athletes from around the conference will represent their respective schools at the season’s four-day culminating event, beginning May 10 in Cheney, Wash.

The competitors that proudly sport the Portland State uniform have provided numerous record-breaking performances this season. Seemingly every meet the Viks will return home to Portland after breaking several school or Big Sky records during the weekend’s events.

“This year we have probably set 33 school records in indoor and outdoor,” head coach Kebba Tolbert said. “We set four school records last weekend. So, I would say that we are heading into the Big Sky Championships with some momentum. I think that we can get some stuff done.”

The Viks have executed extremely well in the final portion of the season, especially last Saturday at the Sacramento Invitational. With a throw of 150 feet, 10 inches, Judith Burnett led the charge by trumping Liz Ann Shultz’s 1979 discus record of 149 feet, six inches. Burnett also established herself as the second-place contender in the conference coming into the Big Sky Championships.

Another accomplishment during the final meet prior to the conference championships belonged to Portland State’s 1600-meter relay team of senior Nate Boyer, junior Brandon Lopez, sophomore Trevor Rollinger and freshman Peter Jason Tait. The squad ran the relay in a record time of 3:15.80, surpassing the previous record of 3:16.07, set in 1999.

According to the Big Sky Conference coaches’ poll, which was released at the beginning of the outdoor season, Portland State’s men were selected to finish eighth, with the women in second place. But, even with these contrasting predictions, both of Portland State’s squads are training and practicing to jump a little farther, throw with more power and ultimately shave those microscopic fractions of a second off their times.

“Well, we are almost done with the season but we still have the Big Sky Championships,” Tolbert said. “On the women’s side, Northern Arizona is probably the favorite, but we would like to finish in the top two. If we can finish in the top two, I will be happy. On the men’s side, looking at the rankings we could get sixth place and we were picked to finish last. So, if we get sixth I will be pretty happy. That would be our best finish ever.”

Even though the Viking men were forecasted to finish last in the conference at the beginning of the outdoor season they never lost hope to have a successful season, and now with an excellent performance at the conference championships they could make history.

“I think that we are predicted to be sixth but we have the potential to get fifth right now, which is better than we have ever had,” junior sprinter and jumper Jon Hill said. “We have a really strong group this year. Last year we had a lot of good distance runners and this year we have more sprinters. Since Kebba came it has been a bit of a rebuilding process, but we think that we are on the verge of making a major breakthrough. This year is definitely a step up from last year. We definitely aren’t done yet.”

If the Viks want to realize their goals for the Big Sky Championships each athlete must do more than practicing and preparing for their individual event. Track and field is a unique sport because it is an individual sport in nearly every event, but the team score is compiled by tallying each individual athlete’s score. So, while track and field may appear to be exclusively an individual sport, any participating athlete will say that the most important aspect is scoring points to help the team as a whole. This is exactly what the Viks must do to be as successful as they hope.

“I am really excited for the Big Sky Championships,” sophomore thrower Caressa Sims said. “I want to do really well and all I can think about is my team. We are supposed to get second now, but we have to do a lot of work to get second. Everyone has to do what they have to do, and I have a part in that. I am really happy that I can contribute to my team’s points and help us get second place in the Big Sky.”

As the Viks make the final preparations for the Big Sky Championships, they hope to exceed their preseason predictions and finish strong. Most of the season’s effort and energy has already been exerted over the course of the season, but in order to accomplish their goals the Viks must find a way to dig deep and perform at their best in the last and most important four days of the season.