March 13, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -
The Auburn men's and women's track and field teams had four All-Americans during the opening day of competition at the NCAA Indoor Championships on the campus of Texas A&M. Sophomore Michael DeHaven, junior Elkanah Kibet, freshman Marcus Rowland and junior Eric Werskey each collected their first career All-American honor in track and field on Friday.
Kibet had the highest finish for Auburn during the opening day, taking seventh place in the men's 5,000 meters with a time of 13:55.25. Kibet, who was ranked 10th in the field coming into the meet, stayed near the front throughout the race, but the slow pace favored the runners with a strong kick and Kibet fell off the pace late, but still earned his first All-American honor in track and field. He was a cross country All-American in the fall.
"I felt good," said Kibet. "I thought it was a good race. I tried to go with them at the end but my legs felt tight. I counted and saw there were six guys ahead of me and I knew I was seventh, and I wanted to make the top eight so I was happy. We have a plan and I'm getting better each day. That was my first time running at a Division I national meet and I'm really grateful for that."
Werskey earned his first career All-American honor by placing eighth in the men's shot put. Werskey reached the finals with a top mark of 18.56 meters (60-10.75) in the prelims, then improved to 18.63 meters (61-1.5) in the finals, just shy of his personal best of 19.18 meters (62-11.25).
"I finished where I was seeded so I guess you can't complain about that," said Werskey. "I got my first All-American honor and I feel good about it. I was hoping to throw just a little bit further, though. I'm still trying to adjust my technique but I'll take what I can get right now."
DeHaven placed eighth in the men's 200 meters to earn his first career All-American honor. He clocked a time of 20.95 in the finals, after posting a time of 20.99 in the prelims. It marked the third and fourth consecutive 200-meter races that he posted a time under 21 seconds.
"I'm happy I made it to the finals, but I wasn't satisfied with my race," said DeHaven. "I thought I could have run a little bit stronger, but you win some and you lose some. I feel strong and I feel like I'm making progress, and I'm looking forward to the outdoor season."
Rowland was looking good in his prelim heat of the 200, but stumbled coming out of the final turn and it cost him, as he finished one spot away from qualifying for the finals, finishing ninth in 21.05 seconds. He almost certainly would have qualified for the finals had he not had the stumble. However, as one of the top eight American-born finishers, he did still receive the first All-American recognition of his career.
Auburn had two women competing in the 200 meters, but neither advanced to the finals. Sophomore Cache Armbrister was 12th in the prelims with a time of 23.80, while freshman Nivea Smith was right behind, placing 13th with a time of 23.90.
Senior Raevan Harris placed a disappointing ninth in the women's high jump with a top mark of 1.80 meters (5-10.75). Harris entered the meet seeded fourth thanks to a school-record jump of 1.89 meters (6-2.25) earlier this year, but never found a rhythm during Friday's competition and bowed out one spot shy of scoring points for the team.
Sophomore Joanna Atkins reached the finals of the women's 400 meters, winning her heat and placing seventh overall in the prelims with a time of 53.67. Atkins, who entered the meet with a personal best of 52.61 this season, started fast and opened a big lead in her heat over the first 200 meters, and held on down the stretch to reach the finals.
The Tigers also finished 13th in the final event of the evening - the men's distance medley relay. The team of junior Jean-Pierre Weerts, Rowland, junior Scott Novack and junior Felix Kiboiywo clocked a time of 9:39.11.
"I would like to have scored a few more points, but I'm pleased we had four guys make All-American," said head coach Ralph Spry. "We're a little banged up but we still lined up and competed well. We've got a couple of good races coming up tomorrow and I think this meet will give us momentum going into the outdoor season. With the group that we have we're probably a better outdoor team than indoor, so I'm pleased with how we've done here so far."
Auburn's men are tied for 23rd in the team standings with four points scored through six of the 17 events. The Tiger women have yet to score.
Competition at the NCAA Indoor Championships will conclude on Saturday. Auburn will have Atkins running in the finals of the women's 400 meters as well as a team in the women's 4x400-meter relay.