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Track wins conference title

Once again, the women’s Conference USA Track and Field title was decided in the competition’s final event.

During the indoor track and field championship in late February, Houston and South Florida entered the final event, the 4×400 relay, with a small margin of separation. Houston won the event and took the championship by only 4 ½ points.

The Bulls and the Cougars entered Saturday’s final outdoor event, also the 4×400 relay, in another close race to determine who would win the outdoor conference championship.

USF’s relay team, Alexis McGaffagan, Amber Delpino, Karoline Hagen and Bente General, needed only a fifth-place finish to capture the school’s first ever outdoor title. The Bulls capped a great weekend by taking first place in the event, and earning the first ever C-USA outdoor track and field title in school history by 8 ½ points.

“The only thing I can say right now is ‘Wow’,” USF coach Greg Thiel said. “The kids did a great job, (and) our staff did a great job. I mean it was just a great performance.

“Our girls came into this relay race as the No. 2 seed and they just decided to put the hammer down against the No. 1 seed and won it. The girls just sucked it up, did a great job and got it done.”

The Cougars finished second, followed by TCU, Marquette and Cincinnati.

Several Bulls had a big weekend, none bigger than Dayana Octavien. The junior won the hammer throw and discus and also grabbed second in the shot put, earning C-USA Female Athlete of the Year honors.

Other top finishers for the Bulls were General, who won the 800 meters and finished third in the 1,500 meters; Delpino took the 400-meter high hurdles title; McGaffagan finished second in the heptathlon; and Chandra Brewer successfully defended her title in the shot put.

The men didn’t bring home a conference title, but the young Bulls’ team finished in the middle of the pack in seventh place. TCU repeated as conference champs, followed by Houston and Cincinnati.

The big winner for the men was freshman Jonathan Miller, who capped a very successful first conference year by winning the pole vault title on his way to being tabbed C-USA Male Freshman of the Year.

Other top finishers for the Bulls were Adam Chumbley, who grabbed first in the 10,000 meters, and Andre Bondurant, who finished fourth in the javelin.

Jimmy Baxter, who had won consecutive conference titles in the high jump and owned the top collegiate jump entering the conference meet, failed to win his third title in a row.

Baxter finished third overall, behind Cedric Norman of Southern Miss and TCU’s Chris Peoples.

But the awards didn’t end for the Bulls after the final event, as the USF coaching staff was named the C-USA Female Staff of the Year.

The staff consists of Thiel (sprinters), and assistants Rita Arndt (distance), Don Marsh (jumpers), Heather Hendrix (throwers) and graduate assistant Makeda Prime.

“This coaching staff works harder than any staff out here, and I just can’t be any prouder,” Thiel said.