May 2, 2012
STILLWATER, Okla. – After coming off of one of the most impressive meets in school history, the Oklahoma State track and field program saw a rise in the national rankings for both the men’s and women’s teams.
The Cowgirls jumped an astounding 32 spots to No. 34 nationally after setting two top three marks in the nation over the weekend, while the men moved ahead six spots to No. 36.
The highlights were numerous for OSU after competing at the Payton Jordan Invitational on Sunday, but the most impressive feat might have been junior Tom Farrell earning an Olympic “A” Standard.
“We broke four school records, we had an Olympic “A” Standard, four athletes came out of that ranked in the top 50 in the world – two in the top 10,” coach Dave Smith said. “I don’t think that happens anywhere very often and it certainly hasn’t happened since I’ve been here.”
Farrell ran a 13:15.31 in the 5,000 meters, earning him the Olympic “A” Standard, which gives him a strong chance to represent his native Great Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games. His time ranks fifth in the world and would be the top collegiate time if he weren’t taking an Olympic redshirt year. His time also breaks the school record set by German Fernandez by more than 10 seconds.
Cowgirl sophomore Natalja Piliusina nearly set an Olympic “B” Standard to represent Lithuania in the upcoming Olympics after running 4:09.51 in the 1,500 meters, which is just .61 seconds off the mark. Her time is tops in the NCAA and ranks seventh in the world. She also broke the school record of 4:13.08 set by Mihaela Susa two years ago.
“We haven’t had anyone achieve the Olympic “A” Standard since I’ve been here, so Tom Farrell getting it is huge for the program,” Smith said. “Natalja Piliusina barely missed the “B” Standard. Those are two athletes that have very favorable outlooks to making their country’s Olympic teams based on what they did this weekend.”
Toni Young, who has made a name for herself as a star on the Cowgirl basketball team, is putting her name in the track and field record books as well after setting the school record in the high jump. Her six foot, half inch effort beat the previous record of five feet, 11 and a quarter inches, which was set by Michelle Crowson in 1987. Her jump is tied for third nationally and No. 26 in the world. It also just half an inch shy of an automatic berth to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials held at the end of June.
“She looks amazing,” jumps coach Zivile Pukstiene said. “I’ve been telling everybody, and even Dave saw, she has potential. I’m very confident at Big 12’s, she will jump (six feet, two inches) at least.”
Cowboy Girma Mecheso obliterated the school record in the 10,000 meters by nearly 30 seconds after running a 28:16.97, topping the record of 28:45.91 that Colby Lowe set last year, which at the time beat a record that stood for nearly 40 years. Mecheso’s effort also ranks No. 7 nationally and No. 50 in the world.
“Girma broke the school record by 29 seconds and kind of went under the radar doing it, which is good because that means we had so many other things that were going on that were high level,” Smith said “But I kind of feel bad for Girma because he smashes the school record and kind of ends up as being a footnote.”
Two other Cowgirl runners set top 10 marks at OSU in the 1,500 meters, as sophomores Kate Kujawa and Caileigh Glenn placed first and second respectively in heat five. Kujawa’s time of 4:22.60 ranks sixth all-time at OSU, while Glenn’s time of 4:22.77 ranks seventh.
“Those two girls in that race did extremely well in competing,” Smith said. “They went to the front, they pushed the pace. Kate led the last 500 meters of the race, which is tough to do. Caileigh got gapped by the field and then came back hard trying to catch Kate. They were battling neck-and-neck down the homestretch.”
Cowboy sophomore Kirubel Erassa performed well in the 5,000 meters, running a 13:47.26, which is the 10th-fastest time in OSU history. It also ranks fourth in the world for junior runners (under 20).
“Kirubel Erassa is ranked No. 4 in the world for juniors based on his 5K time, which is impressive,” Smith said. “That speaks volumes to where the young group is as well. That’s a guy that’s under 20 and to be fourth in the world at the junior level is pretty awesome too.”
OSU travels to Fayetteville, Ark., for the Arkansas Twilight Meet on Friday, May 4, which will be the final regular meet before the Big 12 Championships the following weekend.