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SOU's Beltz, Gatlin earn West Region honors

A week before they’ll find out where they stand on a national level, Southern Oregon University’s Zach Beltz and Grier Gatlin have been tabbed the best of the best in the region by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

Beltz, a senior with the NAIA’s top marks in the long jump and triple jump, was voted the USTFCCCA’s West Region men’s field athlete of the year.

Gatlin, who last week guided the Raiders to their fifth Cascade Conference championship in seven seasons, was voted the USTFCCCA’s West Region men’s coach of the year for the outdoor season.

Award winners were determined by a vote of USTFCCCA member coaches.

There could be little argument against Beltz, whose résumé already includes three All-America honors ahead of the upcoming NAIA outdoor championships in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

While sweeping the jumps at the CCC championships for the third year in a row, Beltz broke meet records in both with marks of 25 feet, 10 inches in the long jump and 50-7 in the triple jump — also season bests.

Beltz completed a career sweep of the CCC long jump, and before him no one had ever captured long and triple titles at the same CCC meet.

During this outdoor season, the product of Elmira, won the long jump in all seven meets at which he competed and won the triple jump twice. On two occasions he was named the NAIA outdoor field athlete of the week.

Gatlin’s men’s team produced NAIA championship qualifiers in nine different disciplines, with eight top-12 seeds and six individuals who will be appearing at the national meet for the first time.

During the fall, he led SOU’s cross country teams to their second men’s and women’s combined NAIA title.