ABILENE - The Abilene Christian track and field program and its historic Elmer Gray Stadium will play host to one of its biggest collegiate meets in almost a decade Saturday when the Wildcats welcome in 22 men's and women's teams for the inaugural Wes Kittley Invitational.
ACU's opponents for this meet - which will be Elmer Gray's largest event since the 2005 NCAA DII Nationals - include former Lone Star Conference rivals Angelo State, Tarleton State and Texas A&M-Commerce, plus Sam Houston State of the Southland Conference and Kittley's Texas Tech Red Raiders, who are making their first appearance in Abilene since a 2009 triangular with Oral Roberts.
Rounding out the field are a number of local and regional schools: McMurry, South Plains, Western Texas, Northwood, Dallas Baptist and Wayland Baptist.
Events begin at 11 a.m. with the men's hammer throw, men's long jump and women's high jump. Track events start on a rolling schedule at 3 p.m. with the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase and will conclude several hours later with the men's 10,0000-meter run.
The Wildcats are coming off an appearance last Saturday in Lubbock at the Texas Tech Open, where they posted several season and personal bests despite being pounded all day by the wind and cold.
Those individuals who finished among the top-five in a massive field that included teams from New Mexico, Oral Roberts, SMU and Grand Canyon were hurdler Lexus Williams, middle-distance runner Daniel Block, triple jumper Jeremy Tatham, plus several throwers, and the men's 4x100-meter relay, which recorded the Southland's fifth-fastest time this spring of 40.87 seconds.
Williams placed fifth in the 100-meter hurdles with a season best of 13.89 that placed her third in the league behind Sam Houston's Sabrina Starr (13.68) and Danielle Demas (13.76). Williams' teammate and ACU freshman, Ramesheon Marine, meanwhile, cracked the Southland's top-eight with her mark of 14.25.
"I see Lexus getting back to top form week-to-week, and it was great to see her with that season-best time in the hurdles," said head coach Keith Barnier. (Lakey), too, had a great day with a solid throw in the hammer. She's just a tremendous team leader."
In the sprints, sophomore Johnathan Farquharson registered season bests in the 100 and 200-meter dashes. His time of 10.39 kept him second in the conference behind Northwestern State senior Justin Walker (10.29), while his 21.17 in the 200m ranks fourth behind Walker (21.01), Rodney Jones of Sam Houston (21.05) and Tinashe Mutanga of ORU (21.23).
After running the 1500-meters the last two weeks, junior Daniel Block made his debut in the 800m and recorded the Southland's sixth-best time of 1:52.82, and in the triple jump, sophomore Jeremy Tatham lept into fourth place with his effort of 47 feet-7 inches (14.50 meters).
"John had a great day of running and really helped the 4x100 relay record its season best ... hopefully we are on our way to 39 seconds," said Barnier. "J is running the fastest times of his life and has become one of our team leaders through all the hard work he's put in since the fall. And Jeremy, he is doing whatever he can to help the team, whether it's in the jumps, hurdles and relays. His times were very respectable."
ACU was led in throwing events by the trio of Aaron Bynum, Jelani Rainey and Deandre Key and senior Shalania Lakey, who placed third in the hammer with a throw of 165-3 (50.36m). The Wildcats' men's throwers finished third through fifth in the hammer, led by Rainey's toss of 162-5 (49.51m) which is the ninth-best in the Southland, while Bynum moved up to third in the discus with his fifth-place launch of 167-3 (50.91m).
Bynum just missed the top-five in the javelin, coming in sixth with a throw of 167-01 (50.94m).
Senior Baptiste Kerjean, who did not compete last week in Lubbock, remains the top-ranked thrower in the hammer with his effort from the Texas Relays that measured 217-7 (66.33m).
About Wes Kittley
Currently the Texas Tech Director of Track and Field and Cross Country, Kittley's Wildcats thrived during a 16-year tenure (1983-99) that included a record 29 NCAA Division II national team championships, 10 Olympic qualifiers, three Pan-American Games athletes, five World University Games athletes, 16 world championships qualifiers and three United States national champions.
Kittley won his first national championship in 1985 when his women's Wildcat squad won the NCAA D-II outdoor championship, a title he would win again in '86, '87 and '88. When ACU combined their programs in 1993, Kittley was selected to head the men's team and won the D-II indoor title in his first season.
Kittley also coached the ACU volleyball team for two seasons from 1987-88, finishing with an overall record of 30-20.
Kittley was born and raised in Rule, Texas, and attended Rule High School, where he was a state champion on the mile relay. He was a three-time NAIA All-American in the 800m at ACU, earning a bachelor's degree in physical education and a master's degree in school administration.
Since leaving Abilene for Texas Tech at the start of the 1999-2000 season, Kittley has greatly added to his championship legacy as he has coached 188 all-Americas, 11 Big 12 Champions, 15 NCAA Champions and 10 Olympians (six medalists). His teams have combined to win four conference titles and posted 11 top-10 NCAA finishes.