College Station, Texas - It was a very strong first day for the Auburn track and field team at the NCAA Indoor Championships as all five competitors advanced to Saturday’s finals, including sophomore sprinter Raheem Chambers who had the top qualifying time in the men’s 60m. Chambers won his heat with a personal-best time of 6.56 and the fourth-fastest time in school history.
“Today was an awesome day going five-for-five advancing to the finals against this caliber of competition,” Auburn head coach Ralph Spry said. “Our group did their job today. That was huge. This group has been competing well all year long and taking care of business. We have to come out tomorrow and repeat what we did today.”
Chambers became Auburn’s first finalist in the men’s 60m at the NCAA Indoor meet since Marus Rowland in 2013. The Kingston, Jamaican’s 6.56 is the second fastest time ever ran by a Tiger at nationals, behind Rowland’s 6.55 when he was the silver medalists five years ago. Chambers will run in the finals Saturday at 4:30 p.m. CT.
“At the beginning of the race, there was a false start, but I just kept my focus and thought about how I was going to execute,” Chambers said. “The start wasn’t as good, but I kept my composure through the middle of the race and pulled through with the win,” Chambers said.
Senior Jonielle Smith and redshirt freshman Natalliah Whyte advanced in the women’s 60m with strong performances of their own. Running out of Lane 8, Smith posted the second-fastest time in school history with a 7.15 to win Heat 1 and advance to the finals second overall. Running in the same heat, Whyte was third and sixth overall with a time of 7.21, just two one-hundreths off her PR.
Smith and Whyte become the first Auburn female duo to final in a sprint event at nationals since 1993 when Juliet Campbell and Cheryl-Ann Phillips were third and fifth in the 55m dash. The women’s 60m finals will be contested at 4:40 p.m. Saturday.
In the men’s 400m, sophomore Akeem Bloomfield and redshirt freshman Nathon Allen finished third and eighth overall to advance. Bloomfield, the SEC Champion in the event, ran a blazing 21.31 first 200 and was edged out at the tape to finish second in his heat in 45.64. The Kingston, Jamaica, native’s time is the fifth fastest in school history and best by an Auburn athlete ever at NCAAs.
Allen won the third of four heats, crossing in 46.08. Allen was second after the first 200 meters, but a strong kick over the last 60 meters gave him the heat win over Baylor’s Will London. Allen and Bloomfield become the first Auburn pair ever to final in the 400m at the same championship. Saturday’s final will begin at 4:50 p.m.
Friday’s performance marked the first time since 2010 that the men and women’s programs advanced five or more individuals to Day 2 finals. Auburn sent six to finals in 2010.
Other competitors on Saturday include senior Jakayla Hand in the women’s triple jump at 3:30 p.m. The Opelika, Ala., native is competing in her first NCAA Championship. The men’s 4x400m relay will also run at 6:40 p.m.
The championships will air on ESPN3 Friday beginning Saturday at 4 p.m. CT. ESPN2 will televise a re-air on Sunday at 6 p.m. Live results can be found at: https://www.ncaa.com/sites/default/files/external/track-field/results/d1/indoor18/index.htm
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