Men's track and field qualifies five for nationals on day one in Fayetteville


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — No. 9 BYU men’s track and field qualified five athletes for the National Championships at the NCAA Division I West Preliminary meet at John McDonnell Field on Wednesday.


Michael Whittaker, Caleb Witsken and Zach McWhorter each clinched berths to Eugene, Oregon in their respective field events, while Casey Clinger and Brandon Garnica did the same in the 10,000-meters.

Colten Yardley and Sebastian Fernandez each advanced to quarterfinals in the 400-meter hurdles and 800-meters, respectively.

Whittaker was the first Cougar of the day to punch a ticket to nationals, but the path there wasn’t easy. The junior from Spanish Fork, Utah was buried in the pack after two throws. Any chance of nationals hinged on his third attempt.

“I wasn’t myself on those first two throws,” Whittaker said. “But after my second throw I took myself to the side and did some positive self-talk to regain confidence. This recalibrated my mind and body to make a great last effort.”

Whittaker ripped a throw of 67.35m/220-11 on his final attempt, jumping into 11th place and clinching his spot in Eugene.

“That was one of the greatest examples of mental toughness I’ve seen in one of my throwers,” said BYU throws coach Niklas Arrhenius.

Clinger (28:47.45) and Garnica (28:47.75) crossed together at ninth and tenth, respectively, to finish the 10,000m in nationals qualifying range while also looking to prevent burnout ahead of Friday’s 5,000-meters.

“The western 10,000m is one of the most competitive of preliminary events,” said BYU Director of Track and Field Ed Eyestone. “I thought Clinger and Garnica did an excellent job, especially since they had Friday’s 5,000m on their minds.”

Caleb Witsken and Zach McWhorter both cleared 5.39m/17-8.25 to finish third and fifth, respectively, in the pole vault.

“Caleb was on his A-game tonight and Zach always finds a way to pull it out,” said BYU pole vault coach Rick McWhorter. “I was proud of Zach’s nerves of steel as he waited two hours to jump.”

With Wednesday’s performance, Witsken has earned his first career outdoor nationals berth and McWhorter his second-straight.

Jacob Barnes, Danny Bryant, Aidan Troutner, Trey Jackson, Dallin Draper, Spencer Carlile and Joey Nokes were each eliminated in first round action on Wednesday night.

Men’s action continues Friday, including quarterfinal action for Fernandez and Yardley.

The BYU women open preliminary competition on Thursday at 10 a.m. CDT with live stream coverage beginning at 6 p.m. CDT on SEC Network+