The USF track and field teams entered the Houston Invitational with an opportunity the Bulls didn’t have during the indoor season — they got to see some Conference USA competition before they went to the conference championships.
USF coach Greg Thiel said the opportunity helped his teams a lot, not only with confidence against some of the conference opponents, but also with familiarization with the opponents.
“It allows them to put a face with the time,” Thiel said. “Otherwise, you’re just looking at the times to see how you stack up against the competition.
“You look at just the times and you may think that you can’t beat it, but when you see the person, you can start to think that you can beat them.”
The Bulls didn’t squander this rare opportunity and turned in one of their most impressive outings of the season, compiling 12 first-place finishes to go along with three school records and one NCAA Regional qualifying mark.
Freshman Jonathon Miller, who broke the 9-year-old school record in the pole vault earlier this season, broke his own record with a 17-foot vault, which ranks him in the top 15 nationally.
Junior Alexis McGaffagan broke her own school record in the high jump, clearing 5 feet, 9 1/4 inches en route to a first-place finish.
Robert Fennell broke the school record and posted a regional qualifying mark in the discus with a first-place throw of 167 feet, 9 inches.
The women swept the throwing events behind Dayana Octavien’s two first-place finishes in the hammer throw (169 feet, 7 inches) and discus (161 feet, 10 inches), while Chandra Brewer claimed the top spot in the shot put (50 feet, 9 1/2 inches).
Other first-place finishes for the women were Andrea Armstrong (javelin), Karoline Hagen (400 meters) and Christa Benton (3,000 meters).
The men also dominated the field and distance events.
Fennell finished first in the shot put, and Andre Bondurant grabbed first in the javelin (190 feet, 2 inches).
Adam Chumbley took first in the 5,000 meters (14:53). The Bulls swept the top three spots in the 1,500 meters led by Jim Vitale (3:56.56), Derek Lincoln (3:58.54) and Sean Burris (4:03.41).
“It was good for the kids to be able to go and compete against a conference team,” Thiel said. “I think we walked away with some good confidence.”
The Bulls get another chance to build on that confidence this weekend when they travel to Louisville, Ky., for the Louisville Invitational. The Cardinals and the University of Cincinnati, both conference opponents, and possibly DePaul will comprise the field.
Adam Adkins covers USF track and field and can be reached at email@example.com