AZ colleges pack for NCAA Track & Field Championships

Arizona will be well represented next week at the NCAA Track & Field Championship Finals at Drake University.  The state’s three Division I universities have qualified a combined total of 34 athletes for the national meet.

Arizona earned 19 qualifications, the most among the three schools, at the just-concluded NCAA West Preliminary Championships in Eugene, Ore. – one of the largest UofA contingents in the past 10 years.

Both of the Wildcat squads are ranked in the top 10 nationally.  The women’s team is ranked No. 5 and the men are ninth-ranked.

The top 12 finishers in each event at Eugene qualified for the championship.  When combined with the top 12 from the other regional site, in Indiana, it means a field of 24 entries in each event will be vying for national honors at the Finals in Des Moines, Iowa, June 8-11.

Each event will crown a national champion, while the top eight finishers in each event will earn All-America honors and score points toward the team title.

Both Pac-10 schools will feature a number of athletes competing in multiple events, as well as individuals who have already established themselves on the national level.

Brigetta Barrett, the national leader in the high jump, will be competing for the University of Arizona.  She needed just two attempts in the Prelims to qualify for nationals, finishing in a tie for first to earn her second consecutive trip to the Championship Final.

LaTisha Holden earned her place in the Finals with a 13.34 time in the 100-meter hurdles for fourth place, after also advancing to the national finals during the indoor season earlier this year.  She holds the second-best time in UofA program history.

Lawi Lalang dominated the men’s 5,000-meter run, leading all but two laps to finish in 13:30.64, eclipsing his own freshman record by four seconds and setting the second-fastest 5,000-meter time in school history.

And those qualifying in multiple events include Jennifer Bergman (5,000 meters, 10,000 meters) and Baillie Gibson (women’s discus & shot put).

The 4×400 relay team will also make the trip after posting a Prelims time of 3:36.85.  The foursome of Christina Rodgers, Shapri Romero, Echos Blevins, and Georganne Moline set a new school record in the event at the Pac-10 Championships.

Rodgers, a redshirt senior from Central High School in Phoenix, broke a 17-year-old school record by turning in a time of 2:03.52 in the 800-meter run at the conference championships.

Arizona State will lead with Jasmine Chaney, who will be competing in four events.  The redshirt senior from nearby McClintock High School in Tempe qualified in the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays.  She is one of five entrants who will also be competing in both hurdles events.

She will anchor both relays, joining with Asia Gooden, Kayla Sanchez, and Alycia Herring in the 4×100 and with Herring, Sanchez, and Keia Pinnick in the 4×400.

The Sun Devils will also have an athlete with a high national profile on their roster for the trip to Des Moines.  Anna Jelmini, who has the best mark in the nation this year in the women’s discus, qualified for her second trip to the national meet with the top throw in the West Regional, 187’03”.

ASU will also have its women’s 4×100 relay team in Des Moines to join the rest of the field in taking on the UofA, as well as a couple of athletes who will compete in the women’s heptathlon, Pinnick and Samantha Henderson. Henderson, who graduated from Mesa High School and attended Mesa Community College, is a senior who will wrap up her college career at the national meet.

And Northern Arizona University will send two athletes to represent the Flagstaff school.  Diego Estrada turned in a career-best time of 13:35.03 in the men’s 5,000-meter run to earn his trip to Des Moines, and NAU’s hammer thrower, Pascal Tang, also notched a personal best with a throw of 206’06” for an 11th place finish.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)