What was a great week for Cache Valley track and field teams culminated late Friday night in Honolulu.
Utah State's men came from behind to reign supreme at the Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships. The Aggies claimed their third straight title and fourth in the last five years by narrowly outpointing second-place Boise State, 180-169.33.
The USU women were arguably as impressive as they gave WAC power Louisiana Tech all it could handle before falling by 14 points, 152-138. It's the first time the Aggies have placed second at a conference outdoor meet since 2001.
"They did a great job and we are all really excited," veteran USU head coach Gregg Gensel said. "The women kept battling back and it was a battle all day long. As for the guys, you can't ask for any more than what they did."
Rounding out a competitive eight-team women's field was third-day leader Nevada (125.5 points), Fresno State (92), Idaho (91), New Mexico State (82), Boise State (69) and host Hawaii (65.5).
Placing a distant third in the five-school men's competition was LTU (123), followed by FSU (89.33) and Idaho (85.33).
Four Aggie men claimed WAC titles over the final two days of the four-day meet, and they were Jason Holt, Eric Larson, Clint Silcock and AJ Boully.
Holt was arguably the most impressive Aggie as he absolutely shined in the 800 meters. The senior tore up the track with a blistering time of 1 minute, 48.78 seconds, which currently ranks 25th nationally and is only six-10ths of a second away from the top 10.
For his efforts, Holt was named the meet's co-Outstanding Track Performer, which was pretty satisfying for someone who has battled some major injuries during his collegiate career.
"It means a lot," Holt said. "I feel honored to get the award, knowing that I worked so hard to get where I am. I didn't think I was going to get it. I didn't think about it. I just went and gave it my best."
Larson was also quite impressive for USU as he remained undefeated in the outdoor season in the 1,500. The senior, who finished second in the event in 2010, crossed the finish line in 3:49.95.
Silcock, the only Aggie ranked higher nationally than Holt - his leap of 7 feet, 2.25 inches in the high jump currently ranks 15th - is now a three-time conference outdoor titlist in the event. The senior cleared the bar at 6-9.75 Friday, while teammate Eric Follet was third with a clearance of 6-7.5.
Boully has quite possibly improved more than any other Aggie over the past few weeks, and it paid off Friday. The true freshman from Boise, Idaho, beat all comers in the 400 hurdles with a time of 52.26. It's the fifth straight season a USU hurdler has won the event.
In addition to Holt, two other Aggies received specialty awards. Gregg Gensel was selected as the Men's Coach of the Year, while Chari Hawkins was the Women's Freshman of the Year.
Hawkins emerged victorious in the heptathlon - the first time a USU competitor had won that event since 2002.
"It was such a great accomplishment for me to be named Freshman of the Year," Hawkins said. "The girls I competed against came in so strong, and having that level of competition helped me give it my best. This was one of the most emotional heptathlons I have had, but the way it turned out was just so awesome.
"It is crazy to be in Hawaii and it is fun."
Several Aggies placed second over the final two days of competition, and they were Ashlee Cannon in the 110 hurdles (13.96), James Allred in the 800 (1:50.29), Kim Quinn in the 5,000 (17:04), Silas Pimentel in the 200 (personal-record time of 21.28), Kyle McKenna in the 10,000 (30:26) and the USU men's 4x100 squad (41.05), which included Sky View product Tanner Hunt.
McKenna was only two seconds away from winning the 10K, with older brother Brian finishing third with a time of 30:46.
Quinn, the school record-holder in the 5,000, nearly added another runner-up performance in the 10,000 before settling for a third-place time of 37:02.
Several Aggies finished in third place over the final two days of the meet in Spela Hus (shot put, 46-3.5), Pimentel (100, 10.59), Kylie Hirschi (400 hurdles, 1:00.47), Bailee Witworth (200, PR of 24.11), Daniel Howell (5,000, 14:41), Hunter Nelson (1,500, 3:51.78), Shannon Prince (discus, 157-3) and 3,000 steeplechase champion Ruth Hilton (5,000, 17:19).
Witworth, the Aggie women's most successful sprinter in several years, also placed fourth in the 100 with a clocking of 12.00. Witworth's qualifying round time of 11.82 ranks fifth in USU history.
Other Aggies who secured crucial team points by placing fourth late in the competition were Hannah Williams (1,500, 4:33.88), Katelyn Heiner (400, 55.75), Armahd Lewis (100, 10.60) and Heidi Peterson, whose time of 1:00.57 in the 400 hurdles was a big-time PR.