In this, the inaugural year of the NCAA Regional qualifying meet, the Rams are looking to get as many athletes qualified for the meet as possible. Saturday provided a big step in that direction.
At the University of Nebraska, site of the 2003 NCAA Midwest Regional Championships, the Rams added 11 names to their list of male and female qualifiers, bringing the combined teams’ total to 36 athletes in 19 events.
Qualifying performances aside, the performance of the day came from senior Drew Loftin, who broke the CSU record in the hammer throw with a toss of 227 feet, 4 inches and in the process claimed the top place in the nation in the event.
“Drew did just awesome,” said sophomore Paul Michel, whose time of 3 minutes, 49.86 seconds in the men’s 1,500-meter run qualified him for the regional event. “We had a good showing all around.”
Indeed they did, as both teams finished in the top five, with the men finishing second and the women fourth. Nebraska’s men’s and women’s teams took both team titles.
Prior to the meet, several athletes said they knew it could be their last chance to run a qualifying time. One of those was Brian Kelly, who called the meet a “do-or-die” prior to leaving for Nebraska.
Needing to run under 1:51.15 in the men’s 800 to qualify, Kelly went out hard, stuck with the leaders and crossed the finish line with a 1:51.10.
Assistant coach Tom Flood said a similar scenario existed for two sprinters, senior Chris Riggs and junior John Woods, who were still looking to run qualifying times in the 100 and 200. Those worries were put aside after Saturday, however, as both ran qualifying times in each event. Woods ran a 10.45 in the 100 and 21.06 in the 200, while Riggs ran a 10.64 and 20.9 in the 100 and 200, respectively.
For Michel it was a case of having his teammates, Mike Nicks and brother Bill, running in the same event (men’s 1,500) to help push him to a qualifying time and a third-place finish.
“During our warm-up they were saying, ‘Let’s just get you qualified,'” Michel said. “We just worked together and in the end I qualified.”
Nicks won the race with a time 3:48.10 – his best of the season – while Bill Michel finished second and brother Paul finished third, giving the Rams 24 points in the event.
“To be the top three among 17 other guys was pretty impressive,” Paul Michel said.
The Rams received other strong performances from Tom Waido and Justin Hazzard; the former qualified in the 400-meter hurdles finishing second with a time of 52.17, while the latter bettered his previous qualifying mark in the event, running 52.51 while finishing third.
Meanwhile Raegan Robb ran a season-best 14:31.68 to win the 5,000, while sophomore Josh Glaab came in second at 14:34.59 in a race slowed by gusting winds.
On the women’s side senior Meg Larson bounced back from what she described as her worst performance of the season to win the 3,000-meter steeplechase while running a stadium-record time of 10:37.08.
Junior Katie Yemm ran one of her strongest 1,500-meter races of the season, winning the event at 4:29.38, while oft-injured senior Kim Watson showed she is back to full strength running an impressive 4:33.16 to finish third.
Meanwhile, junior Zuzana Krajciova gave a stellar performance in the women’s 400-meter hurdles, regionally qualifying and finishing second overall at 1:01.37.
Not everything went perfect for the Rams, however, as a group of athletes hoping to qualify just missed their respective marks.
“I wish I could have run faster,” said sophomore Katrice Thomas, whose season-best time of 24.18 in the 200 was just short of the qualifying mark of 24.00. “The competition was really good and it was fun to see fast people and compete with them. … I just didn’t run as fast as I wanted to.”
Thomas and her teammates will now have to concentrate on surpassing their respective marks at the Mountain West Conference Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., May 14-17.
The Rams men’s and women’s teams added 11 qualifying athletes to their list of qualifiers for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships May 30-31. This is a list of those 11 who hit their marks Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska:
John Woods 10.45
Chris Riggs 10.64
Brian Kelly 1:51.10
Paul Michel 3:49.86
Tom Waido 52.17
4X400 relay 3:11.20
Jason Fearheiley 166-2
Zuzana Krajciova 1:01.37
Jill McCormick 45-9
Haley Hunt 175-8
Katie Hansen 155-0