Junior Barbara Coward and senior Persis William-Mensah were familiar faces up at the podium, clutching gold-plated plaques and representing UCI women’s track and field well at the Big West Championships this past weekend in Northridge.
Coward, the favorite in the discus event, did not upset. On the first day of the championships, she blew away the competition in the event and finished well ahead of the others with an 11-feet difference from the runner up. Coward registered her top mark of 167-07 on just her second go among the four rounds.
Snagging the discus title, Coward is now the fourth Anteater to do so in the respective event and the first to do so since 2014 when Itos Aikhionbare brought it back to Irvine.
The following day, Coward was just 10 inches shy of hoisting yet another title, this time, in the hammer throw. Her mark of 183-06 was just beat out by Hawai’i freshman Haleigh Sudbeck’s 184-04 winning throw.
After two years of taking runner-up honors in the 100m, William-Mensah finally got over the hump in her final conference championship meet, zooming past Long Beach State junior Courtne’ Davis and then the finish line at 11.57 Saturday for the gold and to solidify her legacy in the program’s books as just the third Anteater to top the event; she is also the first to do so since Toby Dean did 22 years ago.
William-Mensah nearly became a double champ on the same day, but would come up two-hundredths of a second short of Davis in the 200m. The Estancia High product broke UCI’s program record for the fourth time on the year with a 23.75 finish, but it was not enough to dethrone Davis retaliated and took the title after William-Mensah snagged the 100m plaque.
Collectively, UCI finished in sixth with 90 points, which is their highest tally since 2002.
Long Beach took first with 122 as UC Santa Barbara was just two points shy of tying the 49ers at 120. Both Long Beach and Santa Barbara were well ahead of the pack with CSUN coming in at third with 101 overall points.
Some New Highs and Noteworthy Efforts
Out in throws, junior Elizabeth Akindele took bronze in the shot put after hitting a personal record 47-01 on the final attempt. Akindele now sits at fourth in the all-time Anteater record books.
On the track, senior Tyra Jones finished with a runner up 13.72 in the 100m hurdles. It was her best effort on the season thus far in the event. Jones also reached uncharted territory in the 400m hurdles, clocking in with a personal record of 61.14.
Junior Hope Bushnell was chasing after William-Mensah in the 200m, taking third with a 24.11 finish. Bushnell also earned points for the Anteaters in the 100m, with a top-10 finish coming in at 11.99 for seventh.
Freshman Mikayla Scott also had a great outing for her very first Big West championship meet, taking eighth behind Bushnell in the 100m at 12.16 and seventh in the 200m at 24.65.
Jones and Scott teamed up with junior Julia Sambvani and Simone Buchanan for the 4×400 relay, where they recorded a season-best 3:45.88, enough for fourth in the event.
UCI will now have the NCAA West Preliminary Round to look forward to. The three day event will commence on May 24 in Sacramento, California.