The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Hounds home at last

ENMU Open is first home track meet of current program's era

 

March 25, 2018

Kevin Wilson

Eastern New Mexico University freshman Taylor Gikas tries to clear 5-2 on the high jump during Saturday's ENMU Open. Gikas topped out at 4-11 3/4, good for second to University of the Southwest's Bailey Kimble.

PORTALES — For the first time since the school reinstated track and field in 2006, Eastern New Mexico University athletes competed in a meet they could call their own.

School officials called it a good start, with many more ENMU Open meets to come.

Until about 100 athletes descended upon Greyhound Stadium Saturday morning, the Division II school hadn't hosted a track meet in roughly 40 years, during the school's previous track and field era where it won NAIA national titles in 1974 and 1976.

The meet was not large enough to be scored, as NCAA requirements stipulate a meet requires at least two teams with 14 or more competitors on each side. With just four schools attending, one a community college, many events featured three or fewer competitors. The Greyhounds won 18 of the 38 total events — 10 women, eight men — in a field that also included New Mexico Highlands, Pratt Community College and University of the Southwest.

The meet, however, does count the same as any other NCAA meet. Greyhound athletes Marcus Parker, Danee Bustos and Kandice Miles earned provisional qualifying marks Saturday — Parker in the 200 (21.07), and Bustos and Miles in the 400 (55.56 and 55.57, respectively).

Spectators got to twice see the oddity of a lone runner in hurdles — Taneika Elliston of New Mexico Highlands in the women's 100 and Kristopher Moore of the University of the Southwest in the men's 400 — racing alongside seven empty lanes with hurdles still set up. The Greyhounds, meanwhile, had the only competitors in pole vault, with Hannah Cabeldue clearing 9-11.75 in women's and Colby Bagwell 12-11.75 in men's.

ENMU's first-year track coach Jeff Kavalunas got to the stadium around 6:30 a.m. in case there were loose ends, but an hour into the event he was able to throw a little coaching in while acting as a meet administrator.

"It's a hectic start, but it's starting to take care of itself," Kavalunas said. "There were a few kinks, but part of a first meet is getting the kinks worked out."

The facility, which included the stadium and a secondary track on the other side of University Street, more than held up to an initial stress test in the mind of ENMU Athletic Director Greg Waggoner.

"We started (planning this) last year," Waggoner said. "We wanted to have a meet last year, and we were supposed to host the Lone Star meet this year, but we had a lot of things come up."

Waggoner hopes to build on the event, but he noted a track season is one of routines that make a successful meet a multi-year recruiting job. Teams are used to going to certain meets year in and year out, Waggoner said, and a new meet has to give teams a reason to break their old routines and attend.

Kevin Wilson

Eastern New Mexico University junior Colby Bagwell competes in the long jump during Saturday's ENMU Open at Greyhound Stadium. Bagwell competed in four events, taking first in pole vault (12-11.75), second in 110-meter hurdles (16.36) and javelin (137-8) and third in long jump (19-7).

The school invited the small field so the infrastructure of ENMU employees and volunteers wouldn't be overwhelmed the first time, scheduled the meet on a weekend where both the Greyhound baseball and softball teams had road games, and worked to put on a meet that would spread through the participating schools' word of mouth. Waggoner noted Pratt Community College coaches were happy with the meet because Portales' March weather is much warmer than Kansas.

Next year's open will be a second dry run, Waggoner said, before the school hosts the 2019 LSC meet. He's already planning out the conference meet, and noting plans include a hospitality area that doesn't use the locker rooms, a large tent for athletes to get shade and blocking off University Drive during events because pedestrian traffic will be at least seven times Saturday's total.

A variety of volunteers, some with experience coaching and/or running track and some with none of either, helped out. Kavalunas said around 50 people volunteered. Athletes from ENMU's other sports joined in as volunteers and spectators.

"To get the number and quality of volunteers from this area," Waggoner said, "was amazing and very appreciated."

 

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