Large field of AZ athletes qualifies for NCAA track finals

Arizona will be well-represented when the NCAA Track & Field Championships begin in a couple of weeks.   A combined contingent of three dozen athletes from the state’s three Division I colleges will be making the trip to Des Moines, Iowa.

The largest groups of qualifiers will be coming from the state’s Pac-12 schools, as expected.

The University of Arizona has 13 athletes scheduled to compete in 16 different individual events.  In addition, there will be four more that will make up the women’s 4×400 relay team.

The Cats are strong in the distance and field events this year, with three athletes competing in the 5K.  Lawi Lalang and Stephen Sambu will run in the men’s 5K and Elvin Kibet will represent UA in the women’s 5K.  Lalang will also run in the 1,500-meter race, in which he finished in third place in the preliminaries over the weekend, and Sambu and Kibert will also run the 10K, along with Jen Bergman.

More than half of the Wildcat contingent are entered in the field events.  On the women’s side, senior Taylor Bush, who came to the Arizona program as a walk-on sprinter, will compete in the hammer throw finals, and Brigetta Barrett will be back in the high jump.  This will be the third straight year that Barrett, a junior, has competed in the NCAA final in the high jump.

In the men’s field events: Nick Ross (high jump, triple jump), Tyler Johnson (hammer throw), Bozidar Antunovic (shot put), Edgar Rivera-Morales (high jump), and Jovon Cunningham (triple jump).

Georganne Moline and James Eichberger round out the group.  Moline will be competing in the women’s 400-meter hurdles and Eichberger in the men’s 800 meters.  Moline has recorded the third-best time in the country in her event and took first place at the prelims.

Moline will also anchor the 4×400 relay, teaming with Shapri Romero, Echos Blevins, and Tamara Pridgett.  The foursome took third place overall at the prelims.

Both of the Wildcat teams are nationally-ranked, with the men at No. 6 and the women at No. 8.

(Update: The latest national poll has moved the UA men up to No. 3, while the women slipped to No. 10.  Both ASU squads dropped slightly as well, with the ASU women at No. 16 and the men at No. 17.)

ARIZONA STATE… will send 15 entries, the majority from the field events.

But ASU will also be sending its 4×400 women’s relay team to compete with the Wildcats, putting up the foursome of Keia Pinnick, Alycia Herring, Brianna Tate, and Kayla Sanchez.  But the Sun Devils have also qualified the women’s 4×100 and the men’s 4×400 teams.

Pinnick will also be competing in the women’s heptathlon since she received an automatic qualification by posting one of the top-10 scores in the nation.

In the field events, on the men’s side: Derick Hinch (pole vault), Bryan McBride (high jump), Chris Benard (discus, long jump), Jordan Clarke (shot put), and Chris Burrows (triple jump, long jump).  Bernard owns the school record indoors and outdoors in the triple jump.

Burrows will also be ASU’s lone individual qualifier in the running events.  The junior will be making his first appearance in the finals in the 200-meter dash.

The No. 12-ranked ASU women will be represented in the field events by Anna Jelmini in the shot put and discus, and Christabel Nettey and Constance Ezugha in the long jump.

NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY… qualified four for the trip to Des Moines after a fifth-year senior from Highland High School in Gilbert got the ball rolling at the preliminaries by winning his flight in the men’s long jump.  Josh DeKonty hit a career-best mark of 25’4.5″ to finish ninth overall and earn his spot in the finals.

The Lumberjacks also will be represented in a couple of other field events, as Caroline Hogardh posted a third-place finish at the prelims in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase, and Pascal Tang‘s ninth-place effort in the hammer throw earned him a second national championship appearance.

Deante Kemper rounded out the NAU contingent by clearing 7’1.5″ in the men’s high jump and winning a tiebreak to be able to move on to his first NCAA appearance.

The NCAA Championships begin June 6 and run through the 9th.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)