Alex Ryan


The University of Cincinnati track and field program is set to open the 2018 indoor season this week as the Bearcats will return to Bloomington, Ind., to take part in the Hoosier Open Friday afternoon inside the Gladstein Fieldhouse on the Indiana University campus. The Bearcats, who competed in the event one year ago, will give UC a chance to take part in competition before taking time off for the holiday break.


The Hoosier Open will feature 17 events with 11 taking place on the track alongside the six usual field events. The throws will open the meet at 3:45 pm with the women’s weight throw with the men’s weight throw and both shot put competitions to follow. The long jump leads off the horizontal jumps at 5 pm for the men with the triple jumps to follow. The women’s pole vault leads off the vertical events at 5 pm with the women’s high jump (6:15 pm), men’s pole vault (7 pm) and men’s high jump (7:30 pm) to follow. On the track, the 60m hurdles trials open the racing at 4:30 pm with the men’s 4x400m relay closing the meet with a 9 pm start time.

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  • Annette Echikunwoke is entering her senior year as the defending NCAA champion after capturing the program’s first national crown in the weight throw last season
  • Seven Bearcats return this year after earning USTFCCCA All-America honors last year, including Echikunwoke indoors; Adrian Valles (PV) indoor and outdoor; Loretta Blaut (HJ) outdoor; and the four members of the outdoor 4x400m relay team (Haisha Bisiolu, Deanna Gesicki, Tiona Lattimore and Bryana Robinson)
  • Speaking of Valles, the five-time All-American, 2017 NCAA outdoor runner-up and six-time AAC champion, competed at the IAAF World Championships for Spain this past summer, his second career appearance in the world outdoor championships
  • Cross country completed its 2017 season in November with Madison Dunlap earning her first career all-conference honor by placing 15th overall at the AAC Championships
  • The men’s cross country team earned the AAC Men’s Team Academic Excellence Award as the Bearcats held the highest cumulative GPA among the 10 league members this fall
  • Alex Bloom will be honored Tuesday night at halftime of the UC men’s basketball game with the presentation of his 2016-17 NCAA Sportsmanship Award
  • Recently, the program signed 13 individuals that are set to compete for UC next fall


Grace O’Donnell, who recently completed her senior cross country season, is set to graduate Friday evening. O’Donnell, an English major, will be one of 12 Bearcats student-athletes that will earn their degrees from UC this semester.


On Tuesday, December 12, at halftime of the UC men’s basketball game against Mississippi State, the NCAA will make a special presentation to Alex Bloom as the senior was named the male recipient of the 2016-17 NCAA Sportsmanship Award. The award, which recognizes athletes and administrators who exemplify sportsmanship, one of the NCAA’s core principles, was bestowed on Bloom for his show of sportsmanship at the 2017 AAC Indoor Championships. In the heptathlon high jump, Bloom cleared a school-record 2.16m (7-01.00) before taking three attempts at 2.19m (7-02.25). After missing all three attempts, Bloom thanked the officials and looked at the results sheet where he noticed that he was credited for clearing the higher bar. He noted this discrepancy to the officials, who correct their mistake.


On March 11, 2017, Annette Echikunwoke capture the national title in the weight throw at the NCAA Indoor Championships, collecting the first crown in program history as she won with a heave of 22.42m (73-06.75). With her win, Echikunwoke became just the fifth UC student-athlete to win an individual national title in the history of UC Athletics. Prior to her victory, two diving and two swimming titles had been captured by Bearcats with the last coming in 2010 when Josh Schneider won the men’s 50 freestyle. Echikunwoke also is now just the second UC woman to win an individual national crown, joining diver Becky Ruehl, who won the 1996 platform event at the NCAA meet. Prior to that trio, Pat Evans won the 3m diving event in 1989 and Charles Keating brought home the first gold with the title in 200 butterfly in 1946.


On her way to the title, the UC record holder broke her program mark three times during the year, bringing her haul to 11 times since the start of the 2016 season that she either tied or broke the mark with five of those throws coming at Indiana’s facility. Prior to that season, the record was 19.53m (64-01.00) and was held by Mimi Merrill since 2001. Echikunwoke broke that record on her second throw of the 2016 season with a mark of 20.04m before bettering that record to 20.05m two rounds later at the Kentucky Invitational. From there, Echikunwoke improved the record five more times in 2016 and then four times in 2017 to eventually land at 22.69m (74-05.50), which is the current record and a 10’ 4.5” improvement over Merrill’s previous record.


Along with Echikunwoke, the Bearcats one other returning indoor All-American and five more that earned the national accolade during the outdoor season last year. Adrian Valles finished fifth in the men’s pole vault indoors last year before taking national runner-up honors outdoor to collect a pair of USTFCCCA All-America First Team honors, bringing his career total to five. Loretta Blaut placed in a tie for sixth in the high jump outdoors to earn first team honors while the team of Haisha Bisiolu, Deanna Gesicki, Tiona Lattimore and Bryana Robinson combined to earn USTFCCCA All-America Second Team honors in the 4x400m relay outdoors.


The women’s 4x400m relay team was full of firsts in 2017. The quartet swept the 4x400m relay events at the AAC Indoor and AAC Outdoor Championships for the first crowns in program history. Then, the ladies broke the school record several times, including in their win at the conference outdoor meet before breaking it once again, running 3:36.59 at the regional meet to qualify for the national finals, marking the first UC relay to reach the NCAA outdoor meet. They weren’t done there, however, as they broke the record once again in Eugene, running 3:35.96 in the semifinals to finish 15th overall. Despite not reaching the final, the team did earn USTFCCCA All-America Second Team accolades, marking the first time in program history a relay team earned All-America status.


For the second time in his career, Adrian Valles took part in one of the largest meets in the world as he represented his native Spain in the 2017 IAAF World Outdoor Championships in London this past summer. Valles, who competed at the world meet in Beijing, China, in 2015, placed 16th overall in the qualification round this year. To get to London, Valles continued to chase a clearance of 5.70m throughout much of the collegiate season before he was added to the field in a pole vault competition in Landau, Germany. In the street event (raised runway on a city street), Valles climbed over the qualifying standard and punched his ticket to London.


Heading into the 2016 cross country season, the Bearcats women had not had an all-conference (Top 15) finisher in the AAC Championships. Then, Juliana Madzia, who was honored as a Top 30 selection for the 2016-17 NCAA Woman of the Year Award, finished 13th at the meet UC hosted to earn the program’s first all-conference accolade since Ruth Limo at the 2004 Conference USA meet. This year, Madison Dunlap ran a personal-best time on a hilly course in Philadelphia to place 15th overall and earn her first all-conference selection and the program’s second in as many years. The 15th woman in program history to earn cross country all-conference honors (25th total honor), Dunlap combines with Madzia to earn back-to-back conference honors for the first time since 2001 and 2002 when Angie Kist and Limo finished 12th and 10th, respectively, at the CUSA meet.


Following the cross country season, the American Athletic Conference announced its annual award winners with the UC men being named the 2017 AAC Team Academic Award winners. This is the second year in a row that the Bearcats men have won the award, which is given to the team with the highest cumulative GPA.


The Bearcats welcomed 22 newcomers to the program this year, including 18 true freshmen, with 17 of those total newcomers joining the men’s roster. Joining the men’s track & field and cross country rosters are freshmen Cameron Davis (Strongsville), Connor Duricky (Mentor), Ryan Guenthner (Louisville, Ky.), Danny Jones (Canal Winchester), Albert Kalala (Cincinnati), Isaiah McCall (Lexington, Ky.), Sam Meece (Napolean), Issac Naayers (Lancaster), Cannon Riddle (Hilliard), Jacob Rieman (Beavercreek), Matt Stump (Medina), Brandon White (Stafford, Va.) and Zion Wynn (Loveland). The men also welcomed in transfers Marcus Abraham (Charlotte, N.C./Gardner-Webb U.), Branden Nosker (Troy, Ohio/Mississippi State) and Anthony Woods (Macedonia, Ohio/Ohio Dominican U.) with Steven Zombory (Chardon) joining the program after running for the campus running club. On the women’s side, four of the five newcomers are true freshmen, including Sydney Hess (Curtice), Kennedy Marable (Toledo), Sam Mikula (Columbus) and Katrina Patterson (Clarence, N.Y.) with the fifth newcomer being Mary Purtsa (Germany).


While the majority of newcomers to the 2017-18 rosters were men, the 2018-19 signing class is comprised mostly of women. The class, which will join the Bearcats in time for the 2018 cross country and 2019 track & field seasons, includes 13 members, including nine women and four men. The women’s class includes Faith Banks (Macedonia), Kaylia Black (Sandusky), Caisja Chandler (Euclid), Kylie Cutlip (Quaker City), Izzy Kline (Newton Falls), Carmen Licht (Macedonia), Leah Maschino (Maineville), Rylee Penn (Corona, Calif.) and Malin Smith (Lansing, Mich.) while the newest members of the men’s program will include Toni Banos (Berga, Spain), Aaron Bienenfeld (Frankfurt, Germany), Austin Goolsby (Hillsboro) and Quincy Mitchell (Hanahan, S.C.).


This season, the 2018 American Athletic Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships will be hosted by the Bearcats at Gettler Stadium and Coy Field. The three-day meet will take place May 11-13 on the UC campus and will mark the first AAC track & field meet the Bearcats have played host and the second AAC meet UC has hosted after holding the 2016 AAC Cross Country Championships at Voice of America MetroPark in West Chester. The last time the Bearcats played host to a conference meet came in 2010 when the BIG EAST meet was held at Gettler Stadium.


Following the winter break, the Bearcats will return to action January 12-13 as they travel south to Lexington, Ky., to compete in the 2018 Kentucky Invitational. The meet will be the first of six weekends in a row that UC will compete as they prepare for the 2018 American Athletic Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships in Birmingham, Ala., February 23-24.