May 28, 2008
The Auburn women's and No. 9 men's track and field teams will send 23 athletes (12 men, 11 women) to Fayetteville, Ark., for the Mideast Regional Championships, May 30-31.
At the four NCAA regional meets, the top five finishers from each individual event and the top three relays receive automatic berths to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. After the automatic qualifiers are identified, an at-large pool is listed in order of the athlete's best performance of the year. From there a committee will fill the national field in each event by starting at the top of the at-large pool until the maximum number of 544 competitors is reached.
"Our main focus this weekend is to advance our athletes to the nationals," said head coach Ralph Spry. "This is the only tool to get there, so we have to get everyone we can through this step so that we have the chance to fulfill our goal which is to win the national title."
Auburn's teams have 11 marks that rank in the top five (or top three for relays) of the Mideast Region among declared athletes, which would automatically qualify them for the NCAA Championships should they match those ranks.
Leading the way for the men is Cory Martin, who ranks first in both the hammer throw and shot put and third in the discus. Ty Akins is first in the 110m hurdles and Reuben McCoy is first in the 400m hurdles, while Jacob Dunkleberger is second behind Martin in the hammer, and Eric Werskey is third in the shot put.
For the women, Raevan Harris ranks first in the high jump, while Amelia Anderson and Danielle Gilchrist rank second and third, respectively, in the 400m hurdles, and Cache Armbrister is fifth in the 200m.
Others who rank in the top 10 include Joanna Atkins (200m - 6th); Felix Kiboiywo (5000m- 7th); Valentina Srsa (Hammer - 7th); Edis Elkasevic (discus - 8th); Hollie Knight (5000m - 8th); Scott Novack (3000m steeplechase - 9th); Zach Clayton (discus - 10th); and Jean-Pierre Weerts (5000m - 10th). The women's 4x100m relay team also ranks fourth.
"On the men's side I think we might be able to get as many as nine guys through to the NCAAs," said Spry. "On the women's side, we have several young athletes that don't have as much national experience but have the talent to get through."
This marks just the sixth year that the regional format has been in place. Over the past five years, the Tigers have had 14 athletes win 18 Mideast titles. Last season, Cory Martin won the hammer throw (69.06m, 226-7) and shot put (19.35m, 63-6), Donald Thomas won the high jump with a mark of 2.30m (7-6.5), Kerron Stewart won the 200m in 22.41 and Michelle Vaughn won the triple jump with a leap of 13.54m (44-5.25).
All of those performances except Martin's shot put mark resulted in new Mideast Region records, and the Tigers also broke two school records while tying another. Auburn's men scored 55 points to finish second in the region, while the women scored 35 points to finish fifth.
Auburn student-athletes currently hold six Mideast Regional records, including the four that were set last year. Gabor Mate holds the record in the men's discus of 65.05m (213-5) and Markita James is the record-holder in the women's 400m hurdles (54.54).
The Mideast Region includes six men's and five women's teams that are nationally ranked by the USTFCCCA. The men's field includes top-ranked LSU and No. 7 Arkansas, while Auburn is the third-highest ranked team at No. 9. Tennessee (No. 10) follows immediately after Auburn, while Kentucky (No. 17) and Mississippi State (No. 23) are also ranked.
LSU is also ranked No. 1 on the women's side, followed by No. 12 Arkansas, No. 14 Tennessee, No. 18 Michigan and No. 22 Ole Miss.
Those athletes who advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships will compete June 11-14 in Des Moines, Iowa.