The track and field team qualified 14 athletes in 16 events for the NCAA Championships at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds held in Lawrence, Kansas, from Thursday to Sunday.
“I was pleased with the overall outcome of the NCAA first round meet,” Director of Track and Field Caryl Smith Gilbert said in a press release. “I thought we did a good job of overcoming all of the circumstances this weekend. I thought we kept our composure daily with five- and six-hour rain delays. We didn’t get to run a preliminary round, but we were still able to come out and win heats and advance to nationals race by race.”
The top 12 athletes in each event earned a bid to compete in the finals on June 8-11 in Eugene, Oregon.
Day one was slowed down by the weather, and few athletes were able to compete. Freshman Nathan Bultman was the only Trojan to step on the field in the men’s hammer throw. Despite coming close to a personal record, throwing 60.02, he wasn’t able to qualify, finishing 27th.
Day two started with sophomore Dominic Smallwood and sophomore Adoree’ Jackson competing in the men’s long jump. Smallwood marked a personal best at 7.50 m that kept him in the race for the finals until the last round of the final flights, when he dropped out of the top-12, finishing thirteenth. Jackson finished third overall with a jump of 7.75 m.
“Dominic had a great PR in the long jump, and although he did not qualify, that was one of my most proud moments this weekend because he has been working very hard,” Gilbert said at the end of the weekend.
Sophomore Kendall Ellis and junior Cameron Pettigrew ran the 400-meter women’s event. Starting together in the fifth heat, they got second (52.91) and third (54.38) respectively. Ellis was the fastest of the non-automatic qualifiers and advanced to the finals. Pettigrew finished sixteenth overall. On the men’s side, sophomore Ricky Morgan Jr. qualified with the eighth time (46.46).
Senior Jaide Stepter and junior Amalie Iuel advanced to the finals in the women’s 400-meter hurdles. Both won their heats in 56.87 and 56.90 respectively.
Iuel was supposed to compete in the high jump as well, but was forced to withdraw as the two events were rescheduled one hour apart and in two different locations.
Sophomore Randall Cunningham finished tied at first place in the men’s high jump as he cleared 2.07, 2.12 and 2.16 with no error.
In the last event of the day, women’s long jump, the Trojans were able to send two more athletes to Eugene as senior Alexis Faulknor leaped 6.02 in her final attempt, finishing eleventh. Freshman Margaux Jones finished sixth with 6.20 marked in her first attempt.
The success didn’t stop there for USC. On day three, Ellis, Iuel, Pettigrew and Stepter set a new school record in the 4×400-meter relay team with a time of 3:26.73, finishing third overall and advancing to the finals.
Senior Tera Novy threw 55.62 in her first attempt in the women’s discus throw, finishing sixth overall.
The 4x100m relay of Faulknor, junior Destinee Brown, sophomore Deanna Hill and redshirt senior Tynia Gaither finished third overall after they won their heat in 44.14 and secured a spot in Eugene.
Hill and Gaither also took part in the women’s 200-meter event. They both marked new personal records at 22.60 (+0.7) and 22.61 (+1.2) respectively. Overall they were second and third respectively.
In the final event of the meet, the men’s shot put, USC had three athletes set to compete. Bultman in his third event of the weekend was joined by freshman Matthew Katnik and sophomore Nick Ponzio. Bultman fouled the first two attempts and decided to step out of the ring for the third one because he wasn’t pleased with the mark, finishing with no valid measure. Katnik threw 18.48 m in his second attempt, only 0.12 m short of the 12th place, finishing 15th overall. Ponzio was the only one to qualify, with his opening mark at 19.05 m putting him in fifth place overall.
“We had a few mistakes along the way, but overall just about everyone that was ranked to make it to nationals did,” Gilbert said. “Our talented freshmen learned some huge lessons about nationals, and next year they will be even stronger and knowledgeable about the process.”
Overall 10 women qualified for the NCAA championships.
“On the women’s side it was one of the best meets of the season, and we have a strong team of 10 women heading to the NCAA final round,” Gilbert said. “We ran some of our best performances of the season this weekend. We are starting to put our races together. I was excited to see some PRs and everyone came out healthy.”