Aleks Hristov | Photo by Sam Craft

Flyin’ Miners end 2021 Outdoor Season at NCAA Nationals on Friday

EUGENE, Oregon – The UTEP outdoor track and field team concluded its 2021 season with Sean Bailey and Aleks Hristov competing on Friday at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in front of 6,234 spectators at historic Hayward Field.

Bailey sustained an injury and didn’t finish the men’s 400m final. The senior from Spanish Town, Jamaica, concluded his collegiate career as a second team All-American for the second season in a row. North Carolina A&T’s Randolph Ross won the event, clocking in a 43.85.

“Not a perfect way to end this championship for us,” UTEP Head Coach Mika Laaksonen said. “Sean didn’t get far in the 400 final before he had to pull up due to a hamstring injury. It’s unfortunate since he is in the best shape of his life and ready to run accordingly. His last race for us is not the way any coach wants to see a student-athlete close out their senior campaign, but Sean had a great season and we are proud of his accomplishments as well as his leadership.”

Hristov competed in his first nationals’ meet as true freshman, posting a 54.32m (178-02) mark in the men’s discus finals on his first throw.

The 21-year old product from Bulgaria fouled his next attempt and followed that with a 51.67m mark. Arizona State’s Turner Washington took the title with a 63.42m (208-01) throw.

“Our true freshman Aleks did well just to get this far during his first season with us,” Laaksonen said. “He opened up well in the men’s discus final, but was not able to improve with his second and third throw to make the final round. This experience will serve him well in the future and we will hear a lot more of this young athlete before his collegiate career is done.”

Overall for the week, Paulo Benavides earned first team All-American honors in the men’s pole vault after placing tied for seventh with a 5.30m (16-4.5) leap over the bar, while javelin thrower Roosa Yloenen gained experience at nationals as a sophomore.

The 4x400m relay team didn’t finish the preliminary race due to Kevin Hewitt’s injury after getting tripped on the third leg, but a third of the relay team is composed of freshmen – Joshua Hill, Jevaughn Powell and Hewitt – setting up the team for a bright future. Chevannie Hanson was an alternate on the relay team and will have two more years of eligibility.

The track and field team sent seven student-athletes to represent UTEP at nationals, the most since the 2017 season.

Other highlights included the Miners having a male pole vaulter – Benavides – at the championships for the first time since 1998, sending a male discus thrower – Hristov – for the first time since 2005, and seeing a female javelin thrower – Yloenen – on the final week since 2010. UTEP also had its first finalist – Bailey – in the 400m event for the first time since 1983.

A few weeks ago, at the West Prelims in College Station, Texas, the young Miners were represented by underclassmen freshmen Ishmel Williams in the men’s high jump, Denae McFarlane in the women’s 100m dash, and sophomore Maribel Caicedo in the 100m hurdles.

At the Conference USA Championships on May 13-16 at Middle Tennessee, the men’s team came up shot with a second-place showing, while the women showed promise on the final day with its young squad.

“This past year posed a difficult challenge to all of us, but we found out a lot about our teams during this time,” Laaksonen added. “We will come back stronger from this experience and I expect to be better next year.”