PROVO — Athletes from 10 different schools across the West began competition at the Clarence Robison Invitational at BYU in Provo on Friday, all hoping to turn in an NCAA regional qualifying time or score.
Among those competing are competitors from six Utah schools — BYU, Utah, Utah State, Southern Utah, Weber State and UVSC — as well as several athletes who are racing unattached.
Friday's events at the invitational mainly consisted of preliminary races to qualify athletes for the finals of the meet being held throughout the day today. BYU had a strong showing as several Cougars managed to grab NCAA provisional marks.
"It is an exciting meet for us because we are finally home with school over," said BYU men's head coach Mark Robison. "Typically this is one of our best meets of the year."
One of the most exciting events of the day turned out to be the men's 400-meter hurdles where five competitors all managed to break the 52.51 regional barrier and qualify for the regional meet.
Among the qualifiers, there were three Cougars: Greg Flint, Ben Gardner and Kansas Whitear, along with UVSC's Stig Robertson and Kyle Grossarth who is competing unattached.
Flint put up one of the fastest times in the region this year with a blazing 51.17 time in the event. He and Gardner finished first and second while Whitear holds the fourth spot heading into today's finals.
"The best event of the day had to be the hurdles," said Robison. "Greg Flint had either the fastest or second fastest time in our whole region. Then Gardner and Whitear had lifetime bests and are both top-five in our region now as well."
In the sprinting events, Utah State freshman DJ Smith had an impressive outing at the meet. Smith grabbed the top spot in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes with times of 10.75 and 22.55, respectively, and is the man to beat heading into today's finals.
Weber State's Ryan Smith won the javelin throw and picked up an NCAA provisional mark on his second-to last throw of the day with a toss of 211 feet 8 inches, beating everyone in the event by more than 11 feet.
Also collecting a win for the Wildcats was Chris Sonognini whose throw of 150 feet 5 inches topped the field in the hammer throw event.
Heading into today's finals, those competing are more concerned about beating the clock than they are about beating their opponent with few meets remaining for athletes to qualify for the NCAA regional meet.
"Marks are what are important," said BYU women's coach Craig Poole. "So I tell (the team) lets get the marks, lets get qualified and get to that regional meet." The Clarence Robison Invitational continues today at 10 a.m. There will be a special ceremony to honor BYU's first track coach, Clarence Robison, with the naming of the Cougars' outdoor track complex after the former coach beginning at noon.