Alaskans help EOU win Cascade Conference championship
When Ben Welch of Wasilla started coaching track and field at Eastern Oregon University 22 years ago he probably assumed he would have some Alaskans on his team, but it’s unlikely he knew they would bring him so much success.
The Alaska pipeline spewed a couple more champions and a ton of points as the Mountaineer men claimed the Cascade Conference championship and the women finished third.
Seniors Isaac and Lucas Updike from Ketchikan finished 1-2 in the men’s steeplechase, senior Hans Roelle of Anchorage defended his 800-meter title and junior Kailey Wilson of Kenny Lake scored points at the conference meet for the third consecutive year.
Welch was also named Cascade Conference Men’s Coach of the Year.
Isaac and Lucas Updike have dominated the steeplechase over the last three years, alternating victories with Isaac winning in 2013, Lucas in 2014 and Isaac in 2015. Isaac also owns the conference record of 9:10.8.
This year he also owns bragging rights over his brother – but barely. Isaac won in a photo finish – 9:28.02 to 9:28.08.
Roelle, of West High fame, repeated as 800 conference champion in a tactical battle against a deep field thanks to a strong effort over the final 200 meters. His time was 1:51.58.
“He used his trademark kick to break the race open,” Welch told me.
They three Alaskans weren’t finished scoring points.
In the 5,000, the Updikes came up clutch again when Isaac finished second and Lucas fifth. Isaac just missed winning, finishing less than a second behind the winner.
Finally, Roelle sealed the deal when he anchored a third-place finish in the 4×400 relay that was good enough to secure EOU’s first conference men’s track title since 2007.
It was also the closest first through third battle in the 21-year history of the event.
Wasilla’s Taylor Owens was part of the 4×100 relay team that also scored points.
In the women’s steeplechase, Rachel Roelle of Anchorage was fourth and Wilson was seventh.