The University of Portland track teams concluded the Portland Indoor series on Sunday, hosting a small collection of teams from throughout the Pacific Northwest while they prepared for championships next weekend.
The meet featured fewer teams than previous outings, with most colleges resting their runners for either their upcoming conference meets or the MPFS indoor championships, both of which are next weekend. Still, the meet had several runners earn personal records for their performance.
Men’s head coach Rob Conner was proud of the performance of several runners on Sunday, highlighting the performances of AJ Reyes and Kai Vickers specifically. Reyes — whose family came up from California to watch him race — and Vickers took first and second in their heat of the 3,000-meter run, finishing with times of 9:00.79 and 9:01 respectively, personal bests for both.
Vickers competed in the most events for the men’s team today. Along with the 3,000 Vickers ran in the men’s mile, where he took first in his heat with a time of 4:36.60.
“Kai Vickers gets performer of the meet for us since he ran two events,” Conner said. “Hats off to Kai.”
Women’s head coach Ian Solof was also proud of his team’s performance in the Portland Indoor finale. Solof noted that while they saved their best runners for the championships next weekend, he was still impressed with what he saw.
“I thought they did well,” Solof said. “A lot of people ran well and it bodes well for the outdoor season, but also for next weekend where we’ll run all of our top people and expect more good results.”
One of the main attractions of the weekend, however, didn’t happen on Sunday. At halftime of the men’s basketball game, several men’s team distance runners ran in the Halftime Mile. A UP tradition since the early 1990s, the event serves as a way to show off athletes to spectators who don’t usually get the chance to see UP runners while also giving runners more opportunities.
“Back in the old days there weren’t any indoor facilities,” Conner said. “University of Washington had a small facility and University of Idaho had two meets so we had to drive eight hours over to Idaho and we just started this as an exhibition to get our guys to have another race.”
They’ve had several top tier runners competing back in the day. The record for the mile run in Chiles is 4:04, a record set by Marcus Dubar, a former Pilot who ran back in the 1980s. In the past, more than just college athletes ran in it as well, so they would give out prize money for it. Now that only college athletes are doing it, prize money isn’t allowed.
The winner of this iteration of the mile was Jacob Klemz, a transfer from Washburn University who won with a time of 4:09. Aiden Fitzgerald finished third.
From an organizational standpoint, the Portland Indoor Three was once again a success, running on time with no major hiccups. Both Conner and Solof said that they’ve only received positive feedback, an auspicious sign if they want to continue hosting meets.
“I think it was really important that people had a good experience and felt like this was a good option for them and that the meets were well run,” Solof said. “If that’s in place and people know they have a good opportunity to not only get into the meet, but have a meet that runs well and where we’re flexible and we’re going to let pretty all their entries in. I think as long as that’s in place, then that means we’ll get more and more competitive and the word will spread.”
Both coaches also noted that none of the organizational success would be possible without assistant coach Jack Mullaney, who did the bulk of the work making sure the meet stayed on schedule.
“A lot of legwork was done by our assistant coach Jack Mullaney, so credit to him for the organization of the meets,” Conner said.
One of the main reasons it’s important that the Portland Indoor succeeds is because it simply increases the number of chances for runners to compete. The only other local meets take place in Washington, with the qualifying times for those meets being difficult to meet for some runners. Running meets here at UP means that Conner and Solof can get extended looks at runners who may not otherwise get to compete.
“Not everybody was able to qualify for those meets so we can run some developmental people, some freshmen, let them compete and get better,” Conner said. “And then if we decide they’re good enough, then we take them to the MPSF, which is a meet that doesn’t have a qualifying standard.”
“This is a really important option for a lot of schools that have to have meets because it’s an NCAA rule,” Solof said. “You got to have somewhere to go, and not everybody has money to go all over the country and to fly people all over to go to an indoor meet.”
With the Portland Indoor officially behind, both coaches will focus on the MPFS Championships, which take place in Seattle from Feb. 28 through Feb. 29.
Kyle Garcia is the Sports editor for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.