May 25, 2007
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Cory Martin, Jacob Dunkleberger and Raevan Harris of the Auburn track and field teams all earned automatic bids to the NCAA Outdoor Championships while six others reached finals in their races during the opening day of the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships Friday at Walton Stadium. Martin won the men's hammer throw with Dunkleberger placing second, and Harris tied the school record while finishing second in the high jump.
The first day of the Mideast Regional included finals in eight field events, but only the preliminaries were held in all of the running events other than the 5,000m, with finals to take place Saturday. The top five finishers in each event plus the top three in relays earn automatic sports in the NCAA Championships June 6-9 in Sacramento, Calif., while others have the opportunity to earn at-large bids after the regionals.
"All in all we had a pretty solid day," said head coach Ralph Spry. "This is a scored meet, but our main objective here is to advance as many people as possible to nationals. We had one letdown with our women's 4x100m and we were counting on that relay to advance. Other than that, everybody did what they were supposed to do. We came out and took care of business, so I'm pretty excited about our performances today."
Martin, the NCAA leader in the hammer throw, won that event with a new Mideast Region and stadium record of 69.06m (226-7). He led from his opening throw of 67.80m, and increased his mark on each of his next four attempts.
"I feel pretty good," said Martin. "Going in I was a little sluggish and a little tight, but my main goal was just to get my first throw in and get qualified. Winning was just the icing on the cake. This wasn't the meet to come in and try to hit a huge throw. I just wanted to get those basic throws in so I know I can hit those at nationals and then go after the big one. And Jake got back on track so it looks like we're ready to roll for nationals."
Dunkleberger, who ranks fourth in the NCAA, was second with a mark of 68.32m (224-2). His best throw came on his sixth and final attempt, although he was already in third and safely in the NCAA meet prior to that attempt.
In the women's high jump, Harris tied the school outdoor record while finishing second with a leap of 1.87m (6-1.5). Harris cleared the bar at 1.81m and 1.84m on her third and final attempts, but then soared over the bar at 1.87m on her first attempt to equal the school and Mideast Region records.
Harris tied the school record set by Sissy Costner in 1989. Her Mideast Region record was tied and passed by the event winner, but her second-place finish earned her her first trip to the NCAA Championships.
"I'm very excited," said Harris. "I'm almost surprised, because my shin has really been bothering me and I did better than I thought I would do. But I'm very happy."
In action involving preliminaries, Kerron Stewart raced to the field's fastest time in the 200m, posting a time of 22.74 seconds. Stewart, who elected to only run the 200m for the NCAAs and not the 100m, a race in which she owned the NCAA's fastest time this season, was the only runner to finish the 200m in less than 23 seconds.
Ty Akins won his heat of the men's 110m hurdles to advance to Saturday's finals. Akins clocked a time of 13.90, which was the third-best mark among the eight qualifiers.
Reuben McCoy was another heat winner for Auburn, cruising in the 400m hurdles to a time of 51.07 seconds which ranked second overall.
Tracy Ann Rowe advanced to the finals of the women's 100m, finishing second in her heat of the women's 100m with a time of 11.64, which tied for fourth best in the prelims.
Felix Kiboiywo reached the finals of the men's 1500m, placing second in his heat and overall in the prelims with a personal-best time of 3:44.05, which ranks ninth in school history.
Danielle Gilchrist reached the finals of the women's 400m hurdles, placing a close second in her heat and fifth overall in the prelims with a time of 58.25, which is just off her season best of 58.10.
The worst news of the day for Auburn came in the women's 4x100m relay. The Tigers entered the event ranked No. 2 in the nation, but were disqualified during their heat when the second exchange between Gilchrist and Rowe took place outside of the exchange zone.
Others who competed but did not advance included Michelle Williamson, who tied for 11th in the high jump with a mark of 1.71m (5-7.25), and Edis Elkasevic, who finished 19th in the men's discus with a mark of 49.04m (160-11).
Saturday's competition will begin with the women's hammer throw at 11 a.m., while running events start at 4:00 p.m. with the men's 4x100m relay.