Faith Banks

University of Cincinnati junior Faith Banks.

The Cincinnati Bearcats headlined the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Track and Field Championship with nine winners in eight events among their individuals and teams on Feb. 25 and 26. Cincinnati’s nine winners tied the championship high with Wichita State.

Both teams took second place out of the 17 scored events, with Women’s losing to the Central Florida Knights (UCF) and Men’s falling to the Houston Cougars.

The Women's team won six events over the two days, starting on Friday with the distance medley relay. The team Cincinnati set out consisted of senior Sam Mikula, junior Faith Banks, sophomore Carmen Licht and senior Ellie Leather. They narrowly beat out UCF by three seconds to win their first event of the weekend.

They followed it up on Saturday with four more event wins, which were all individual accomplishments. Bearcat senior Alyssa Matheny and sreshman Annika Kinley started it by tying for the High Jump, beating out sophomore Kaliah Jones of UCF and Annia Ashley of South Florida. Senior Katie Straus then got her first win of the stale, winning the women’s 60-meter hurdles, beating out Tulane senior Kristen O’Handley and Wichita State freshman Destiny Masters for the top spot. 

The men's teams took home three events of their own, starting with the hepatahlon pole vault. Freshman Dominique Hall took the event and was joined by two Bearcats on the podium, with senior Damien Berthenet coming in second and junior Cannon Riddle tying for third place.

Junior Austin Edwards then took the men's long jump over the men’s highest scorer of the weekend, freshman Shaun Maswanganyi, and junior Benjamin Okaform, who are both from Houston. Finally, freshman Steven McElroy took the 400 Meter Dash, beating out Houston junior Tyrell Valentine by just .05 seconds.

While the teams held first place at the end of day one, both teams finished the weekend in second place. The combined second place from both men’s and women’s is the best team finish the Bearcats have ever had, with the Men’s team setting the highest point total in their history. 

“I am really proud of the team and how we battled today, as well as all the progress we are making and we can’t wait to see what will happen in outdoor season,” said Cincinnati Head Coach Susan Seaton.

The biggest winner on the weekend for Cincinnati was senior, Ellie Leather. After she helped her team win the distance medley, she went and won two more events to get her total to three on the weekend, her first, the women’s one mile with a 4:41 mile, setting the AAC meet record by more than four seconds and beating junior, Yazmine Wright of Wichita State, who would’ve set the meet record if it weren’t for Leather. 

Leather then won the women’s 800 meter, beating out UCF junior, Charlotte Crook, by just one second. Leather finished as the second-highest scoring female of the event, trailing only sophomore Rayniah Jones of UCF.

Leather’s weekend performance helped boost her national ranking, and it has qualified her to run at the NCAA Championship meet on March 11 – 12. She could be joined by one of her Bearcat teammates, as the official list of qualifiers will be announced on Tuesday.

As for the rest of the team, they will kick off the outdoor season on March 17 at the Houston spring break Invite.

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