PROVO -- Twelve BYU athletes will be packing their bags for Baton Rouge, La. to compete in this year's NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at LSU's Bernie Moore Stadium.
Jeff Hansen looks to defend the pole vault title he earned at the NCAA Indoor Championships earlier this year in Fayetteville, Ark. Hansen is one of three athletes on the Cougars' men's track team that qualified for the NCAA Championships. He was the national runner-up in the pole vault at last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Joining Hansen is senior All-American Mao Tjiroze, who qualified in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:48.29. Sophomore Aron Szmuda had a qualifying jump of 25-08.00 (7.82m) in the long jump, the 12th-best mark in the nation this year.
The BYU women's team had nine qualifers for nationals, including two athletes in the 1,500-meter run and 3,000-meter steeplechase.
The top qualifier for the Cougars is senior Nikki Hughes, who currently holds the second best mark in the long jump at 21-07.50 (6.59m) behind Auburn's Elva Goulbourne.
Freshman All-American Michaela Mannova and junior All-American Nan Evans will be competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, which former BYU star Elizabeth Jackson won last year. Mannova is ranked eight with a time of 10:09.54 and Evans is ranked 14th in 10:14.16.
In the 1,500-meter run, senior Jaime Cottle, ranked eighth in 4:18.30, and freshman Kassi Andersen, 14th in 4:19.90, will represent the Cougars.
Devra Vierkant's time of 16:16.93 is currently the 15th-best time in the nation and qualifies her for the NCAAs. Lindsey Thomsen will be competing in the 10,000-meter run and is ranked 13th in a time of 33:58.20.
Hughes is joined in field events by freshman Lindsay Johnson, who has a top throw of 172-03.00 (52.50) in the javelin, ranking her seventh in that event.
The final qualifier on the women's side is freshman All-American Lindsey Steele, who looks to get a second All-America citation in the high jump following a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Steele is tied for 18th with four other competitors at a height of 5-10.50 (1.79m).
The BYU men, led by Hansen's second-place finish in the pole vault, were 19th at last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships. The Cougar women finished 11th led by Elizabeth Jackson and three top five finishers in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at last year's meet in Eugene, Ore.