Next Stop: National Championships

Robbie Pratt automatically qualified for the national championships and will compete Friday. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO (March, 7, 2006) -- The top provisional qualifiers have been announced and six Cougar men will join the finest collegiate athletes in the nation for the Indoor National Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. beginning Friday.

"I'm ecstatic to go to nationals," Coach Mark Robison said. "Everyone has a chance to become an All-American out of the group that's going and I think we're going to see some good things."

The first to compete for BYU is pole vaulting sensation Robbie Pratt, the lone Cougar to automatically qualify for nationals. Pratt recently brought home the title at the Mountain West Conference Indoor Championships with a vault of 18 feet 4.5 inches. He has a personal best of 18 feet 8.5 inches and will seek to improve on that at nationals. Pratt's toughest competition should come from Oregon's Thomas Skipper, who is ranked first by 1/4 inch ahead of Pratt going into the championships.

Recent MWC high jump and triple jump champion David Pendergrass will strut his high jump skills on Saturday afternoon. Pendergrass has a personal-best of 7 feet 2.75 inches.

The distance medley relay team of Jason Dorais, Ben Gardner, Jacob Gustafsson and Josh McAdams will also compete after posting a time of 9:33.77 at the Alex Wilson Last Chance Meet in South Bend, Ind., which put them in their current position as the third-fastest team in the nation. The team may have the opportunity to set a new school record after narrowly missing the current record of 9:33.70 in South Bend.

"I'm very excited for the opportunity that we have to compete for BYU," said Gardner. "We have a good chance of finishing among the top and it'll be great to see the outcome."

Cross Country All-American Chelsea Smith McKell was a top provisional qualifier as well in the 5,000 meters but will not join the men in Arkansas.

So many athletes and so few spaces leave some of the best out of national competition. Several BYU athletes provisionally qualified for nationals but just missed the top spots and will not be performing at the championships. Michelle Lindsay qualified in the 800 meters, Mandy Lonsway on the pole vault and Kamila Rywelska in the triple jump. Qualifying for the men were three freshmen, heptathlete Meelis Kosk, Kyle Perry in the 3,000 meters and Chris Carter in the 400 meters. The men's 4x400 team and high jumper Bryce Bergen also qualified.

The outdoor season will begin immediately following the Indoor National Championships. The Cougars will play host to five outdoor meets, including the MWC Outdoor Championships and the NCAA Regional Championships. For more information about the Cougar track and field program, visit their web sites at www.byucougars.com and www.byutrack.com.