May 30, 2008
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -
Four members of the Auburn track and field teams earned automatic spots in the NCAA Championships and six Tigers advanced from prelims into tomorrow's finals in running events during the opening day of the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships at John McDonnell Field. The top five finishers during the regional meet earn automatic spots at the NCAA Championships, while others who finish in the top 12 at the meet must wait to find out if they earn an at-large spot in the field.
With just five events in the books, the Auburn men are in first place in the team standings with 24 points, while the women are tied for 11th with seven points after four events were scored.
"This meet is all about advancing to the NCAA Championships," said head coach Ralph Spry. "We had a few kids who competed hard and didn't quite make it through, but our heavy hitters did what they had to do. We're still right where we need to be in terms of accomplishing our mission at nationals. Our key people are stepping up, and if we can come back tomorrow and finish what we started today, it's going to be a real exciting NCAA meet for us."
Senior Cory Martin continued his domination of throwing events this season, winning the shot put, while sophomore Eric Werskey also punched his ticket to Des Moines by finishing third. Martin took only his first three attempts before passing on the last three, and all three of his throws were better than anyone else in the field, culminating in a mark of 20.05m (65-9.5).
"What I wanted to focus on the most today was consistency," said Martin. "My main goal was to hit 20 meters in my first three throws and I was able to do that."
Werskey, who finished a disappointing ninth at the SEC Championships in the shot put, rebounded to take third at the regional meet with a throw of 18.09m (59-4.25). He entered the meet seeded third in the region and 11th nationally.
"At the SEC meet I was trying way too hard," said Werskey. "Today I wanted to come in with a clear head, take it easy my first couple of throws and get a decent mark and make the final. It feels really good to bounce back after a bad meet at SECs, and to throw 59 feet or so feels really good. My goal is to make the final at the NCAA meet and be an All-American."
Sophomore Valentina Srsa qualified for her first NCAA Championship meet, finishing fifth in the women's hammer throw. Srsa, who won the SEC title in the event two weeks ago, posted a mark of 59.03 (193-8), which was good enough to edge the sixth-place finisher by 17 inches for the final automatic qualifying spot. She entered the competition ranked seventh.
"Coach (Jerry Clayton) told me that I just needed to repeat what I did at the SEC meet and I would make the top five, so I was just hoping to do that here," said Srsa. "It turned out Coach was right once again, and now I'm going to the NCAA meet and I hope for the best."
Sophomore Felix Kiboiywo finished second in the men's 5000m to earn a trip to his first NCAA Championship meet. The SEC champion in the 1500m raced to a time of 14:06.32 in the final event of the night, after entering the meet seeded seventh. Sophomore Jean-Pierre Weerts placed 14th in 14:41.71.
In the women's 5000m, freshman Hollie Knight came up one spot shy of earning an automatic spot in the NCAA field, finishing sixth with a time of 16:42.62. However, she still stands a good chance of earning an at-large spot in the field, as she entered the meet ranked No. 18 nationally. Sophomore Laurel Pritchard placed 19th with a time of 18:05.84.
Auburn advanced two women into the finals of the 400m hurdles, as junior Amelia Anderson and sophomore Danielle Gilchrist both won their respective heats. Gilchrist's time of 57.47 ranked third overall, while Anderson's time of 58.94 ranked 10th overall but was good enough to win her heat and advance her to the finals. Freshman Latoya Parkinson didn't advance to the finals, placing 13th, but her time of 59.94 was a personal best and ranks her eighth in school history.
In the men's 400m hurdles, senior Reuben McCoy, ranked No. 1 in the region, won his heat and clocked the third-best time of the prelims with a mark of 50.70 to advance to the finals. Junior Jhak Keegan finished 19th with a time of 52.81.
Senior Ty Akins cruised into the finals of the men's 110m hurdles, posting the fastest time in the prelims. The defending NCAA Champion raced to a time of 13.51, which was .13 seconds faster than the next closest competitor.
Freshman Cache Armbrister reached the finals of the women's 200m with a time of 23.24 that ranked sixth overall in the prelims, but fellow freshman Joanna Atkins came up one spot short of reaching the finals, placing ninth in 23.51 seconds.
The women's 4x100m relay team of DeAngela McDougald, Atkins, Armbrister and Anderson finished sixth overall with a time of 45.34 to advance to tomorrow's finals.
Luke Gaines finished 15th in the men's javelin, posting a top mark of 60.45m (198-4), and junior Katalin Mate was 21st in the women's discus with a throw of 46.52m (152-7).
The second and final day of the NCAA Mideast Regional will take place Saturday, before NCAA qualifiers will compete at the NCAA Championships hosted by Drake University June 11-14.