The women's distance medley relay team earned an automatic bid into the NCAA championships at the UW Invitational. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
SEATTLE -- The Cougars earned an NCAA automatic bid for the first time this season as the women’s team breezed to a Conference record in the distance medley relay at the UW Invitational on Friday.
“This relay team has the potential to win a national championship,” said BYU women’s distance coach Patrick Shane. “They looked great in practice and keep getting stronger.”
The dynamic relay team earned an automatic invitation to the national championships with a time of 11:06.55 at the Dempsey Indoor facility in Seattle. The time eclipses the previous Mountain West Conference record set by a BYU team on the same day five years earlier.
Leading the way in the record breaking race was sophomore All-American Katie Palmer, who broke free from the pack on the last lap of the 1200-meter leg with a time of 3:24.01. Freshman Natalie Stewart fed off the momentum set by Palmer, running to a season best and NCAA provisional qualifying time of 53:76 in the 400-meter. Creating more separation for BYU was freshman Lacey Cramer, who ran the 800-meter leg of the race in a provisional qualifying time of 2:06.54. Cramer handed the baton off to junior All-American Angela Wagner, who ran an impressive final leg of the race in a time of 4:41.84, while battling a cold.
Wagner was unable to maintain the lead over Washington All-American standout Katie Follett, who exploded in the final 200–meters of 1600-meter leg of the race taking the lead and eventually the victory from BYU. The Huskies time in the DMR (11:05.80) is currently the nations fastest. BYU is second and Stanford rounds out the nations top three with a time of 11:07.53.
“I think we can do even better once we are completely healthy,” Shane said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we ran this race eight seconds faster.”
Other Cougars hoping to earn automatic qualifying marks were the nation’s No. 1 and 2 pentathletes Amy Menlove and Mindy Neeley. Unfortunately, foggy weather delayed BYU’s arrival time keeping the junior All-Americans out of the competition. Menlove and Neeley will compete Saturday in individual events.
On the men's side, BYU continued its success in the DMR at the UW Invitational. Senior Jacob Gustafsson, freshman Rhyan Atrice and All-American seniors Keith Jensen and Kyle Perry finished third in the DMR with a NCAA provisional qualifying time of 9:36.98. The Cougars finished third only to No. 1 ranked Arkansas and an Oregon team that featured two 2008 Beijing Olympians.
Saturday’s action at the UW Invitational will continue at 8:30 a.m. PST with the men’s and women’s pole vault.
While part of the BYU men’s and women’s team raced in Seattle on Friday, the other half competed simultaneously in limited events at the Bronco Invitational in Nampa, Idaho. The majority of the meet will take place Saturday starting at 10:00 a.m. MST at the Jackson Track Facility.
Final Results for both meets can be found at TrackShark.com.