Six cougars punch tickets to NCAA Track and Field Championships
LAWRENCE, Kansas – Six BYU track and field athletes punched their tickets to the NCAA Track and Field Championships during the Division I West Preliminary on Friday. After Thursday's events were postponed due to inclement weather, the Cougars came out with strong performances this morning and finished the day off with several spots guaranteed in the national meet June 8-11 in Eugene, Oregon.
“I think it was an amazing day altogether, considering that we had to deal with the adversity of yesterday's events being canceled and basically the events being condensed into one day,” BYU track and field coach Ed Eyestone said. “I think our athletes really handled it well and came out with a strong mental attitude. As a result, we saw them really have great performances. We saw most of our favorite people advancing to the national meet.”
Distance runners Connor McMillan and Aaron Fletcher both gave impressive performances in their respective events. Sophomore McMillan ran a qualifying time of 29:54.47 in the men’s 10,000m race, finishing eighth overall, and senior Fletcher competed in the 3000m steeplechase, finishing with a time of 8:46.58, also eighth place overall.
Senior Jesse White competed in the men’s 400m race and won his heat with a time of 46.52 to finish 11th overall and advance to Eugene. Likewise, junior Shaquille Walker won his heat in the men’s 800m with a time of 1:48.07, and he finished 2nd overall. By winning his heat, Walker also automatically advanced to the championships.
High jumper and senior Zach Blackham cleared a mark of 2.16m (7-1) on his third and final attempt at the mat, avoiding an impending jump-off and securing himself a place in the championships.
On the women’s side, junior Shae Collinsworth also punched her ticket in the women’s 800m by winning her heat and finishing first overall with a mark of 2:04.82.
After today, the Cougars have seven athletes total officially moving on to Eugene, with junior Jackson Walker already qualified in the men’s decathlon.
Coach Eyestone says he is pleased with the way all the athletes performed today, particularly the favorites coming into the meet, living up to their past history of the season.
“Shea ran fearlessly and Shaq followed that up," Eyestone said. "Aaron ran very strong in the steeplechase and then you couple that with Zach Blackham, when you come into a meet like this you are just hoping that those favorites perform up to their past history for the season, and I think that we saw that.”
The NCAA Track and Field Division I West Preliminary continues tomorrow as BYU athletes will be competing in the women’s 100m hurdles, 400m hurdles and discus, as well as the men’s 5000m, 110m hurdles, 4x100m relay, 4x400m relay, shot put and discus. Coach Eyestone is anxious to see how his team finishes the weekend out on Saturday.
“Our team has battled bravely and we are looking forward to another great day to close things out.”