Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska-Kearney track and field team won eight events and had six provisional efforts at the UNK Loper Invitational Thursday evening at Kearney High School. This meet was originally set for Friday and Saturday but moved up two days because of weather. On Wednesday night, three distance events were run. The non-team scoring meet included student-athletes from York College, Hastings College, Northwest Kansas Tech, Northern State, Colorado-Colorado Springs and Fort Hays State. In the men’s pole vault, Fairfield senior Bailey Stapleman placed first with a career-best height of 16-9.25. That keeps him second on UNK’s all-time list and moves up to seventh nationally. He has now reached the provisional standard in his last three meets.
Also showing great consistency is Elm Creek junior Jacob Bartling, Colorado junior Micheala Hoffman, Grand Island sophomore Mackenzie Puckett and Kearney freshman Anna Squiers. Bartling met the NCAA provisional mark in the shot put for a fourth straight meet, this time coming in second place with a season-best toss of 57-2.75. At the moment, that ranks him eighth nationally. He also was runner up in the discus (169-10), an event where fellow defensive linemen Blake Schroeder Holdrege came in fifth. His career-best throw of 164-11 puts him on the national list for the first time (24th). Next, Squiers tossed the javelin a season-best 153-0 to finish sixth in a field of 21. That moves up to eighth on the Loper all-time list, places her 20th nationally and marks the third time this spring she’s met the provisional distance. For a second straight week, Hoffman and Puckett were both strong in their respective events. Hoffman again was first in both the 100 (14.84) and 400 (1:03.40) hurdles. Her time in the 400 is a career-low and moves up to fourth in Loper lore. In the jumps, Puckett won the triple jump again thanks to a career-best leap of 38-2.25. That moves her up three spots to sixth in school history. She led UNK in the long jump (6th/17-6.75) as well. Holdrege freshman Baylie Bryant (pole vault) and Waco junior Mackenzie Crowder were the other Lopers to crack the national list. Bryant cleared 11-11.75 to come in second in with Crowder placing fourth thanks to a toss of 45-2.25. Bryant’s effort vaults her up three spots to fourth in the annuals. Finally on the women’s side, Grand Island freshman Alyssa Wells was fourth in the javelin with a throw of 116-5, good for 10th place on UNK’s all-time list, with Auburn senior Melissa Davison winning both the 800 (2:25.19) and 1,500 (4:47.99) meter runs.
Several distance races were good for the Kearney men as Lincoln sophomore Nate Pierce (3:59.95) and Scottsbluff senior Tayler James (4:12.23) went 1-2 in the 1,500 meter run. Next, UNK had the top four finishers in the 800, led by Kearney senior Cody Wirth (1:56.72), with Columbus freshman Nick Balerud fourth out of 32 in the 5,000 (15:29.85). Finally, Scottsbluff junior Shane Burkey was runner up in the steeplechase (33:01.98). Back on Thursday, Ogallala freshman Jakob Estrada was runner up in the high jump (6-6.75), Omaha senior Thomas Stopak came in third place in the long jump (22-2.50) with McCook senior Marcus Gonzales fourth in the hammer (179-9). UNK is split up a bit next week. The majority of the team will head to Doane Friday and Saturday for the Jim Dutcher Memorial with select Lopers taking part in the Kansas Relays and Bryan Clay Invite (California) earlier in the week.