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Beltz, Gatlin earn USTFCCCA 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, 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 and 50-7 in the triple — 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, Ore., 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.

RAIDERS TO BE REPRESENTED IN 16 DISCIPLINES AT NAIA OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS: Southern Oregon University will have 17 athletes spread out over nine men’s and seven women’s disciplines at the 68th annual NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the complete qualifiers for which were revealed Friday by the national office.

The 68th annual meet will be held next Thursday through Saturday at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium in Gulf Shores, Alabama, for the sixth consecutive year.

Zach Beltz is SOU’s headliner, entering the meet as the top seed in both the men’s long jump and triple jump. The senior has previously placed fourth and sixth in the long jump, but the Raiders have never produced a national champion in either event.

The Raider men also have top-eight seeds in Noah Oberriter (10,000 meters) and Rhett Gonzalez (110 hurdles). Oberriter and Ben Harter will run both the 5K and 10K races.

On the women’s side, Arianna Daniel will attempt to repeat as an All-American in the 400 and is part of a Raider 4x100 relay team that will go for its third consecutive top-eight finish. SOU will also be represented in the 4x400 relay.

SOU has a pair of entries in the 3K steeplechase, Bree Weber and Jenna Storms, with Weber in the field for the second year in a row. The Raiders have another returning qualifier in heptathlete Loghan Sprauer, while a pair of first-timers, senior Joanna Galli and freshman KiAshe Hobby, will compete in the pole vault and hammer.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneZach Beltz launches from the board with his last attempt in the finals winning the triple jump with a meet record.