Fayetteville, Ark. – The University of Arizona Wildcat No. 20 men’s and No. 14 women’s track and field teams are competing in the NCAA West Preliminaries in Fayetteville, Ark. The NCAA West Preliminaries is the first and second rounds of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The first day of competition has been completed, the final two days will take place on the 30th and 31st of May. Arkansas’ John McDonnell Field is playing host to the meet. The semifinals and finals of the NCAA Championships will take place June 11-14 in Eugene, Ore. After the first day of competition, two student-athletes on the women’s side and one on the men’s advanced to the finals in Eugene.
In the women’s 10,000-meter race, redshirt junior Elvin Kibet clocked a time of 34:07.85 and finished in third place overall. She advanced to the final of the event for the second-straight year (redshirted 2013). It will be the fourth-straight year the Wildcats have had a competitor in the final of the women’s 10K at the NCAA Championships.
“The race felt really good, really smooth,” Kibet said. “My coach (James Li) just told me to start slow, be around the top 10 in the beginning and then come up to top five. I pretty much did that, the pace went out really slow which was perfect for me. When it picked up a little bit, I was just making sure that nobody was passing me. It was pretty chill. I have so much energy for the 5K and I know I really have a chance to qualify. I remember two years ago, the 10K was new to me and making it in both the 5K and 10K was really exciting. But this year, I’m even more excited because I’m more experienced and the race involves more strategy and being smart.”
Redshirt freshman Aaron Castle began the day for the Wildcats and got the team off to a great start. He earned an 11th-place finish overall with a toss of 60-4 (18.39m). That is the second-best toss of his career. His first throw was at 59-3 (18.06m) and that placed him at 11th heading into the final that includes the top 16. Going into the final round of throws he was 12th overall, with his spot already cemented, he had his best throw of the day at 60-4. He is the third freshman in program history to make it to the final of the NCAA Championships in the event. In the women’s shot put, senior Julie Labonte will advance to Eugene for the final of the women’s shot put. She took fourth place overall with a toss of 55-2.75 (16.83m). It is the fourth time in Labonté’s career that she has made the final of the women’s shot put competition at the NCAA Championships. She is the third Wildcat in program history to accomplish that feat, joined by Meg Ritchie and Carla Garrett, two of the best throwers in collegiate history. Ritchie still holds the collegiate record. Senior Omotayo Talabi finished in 19th place overall and failed to advance. Her best toss on the day was 50-6 (15.39m).
“My first throw got me to the finals, so that’s pretty important,” Castle said. “It was a good place to start, not too close to my personal best but it was a good place to start. The second throw, it slipped off my hand cause of the rain. The rain made me throw less (during warm-ups) but it didn’t bother me. I think I was able to compete a little bit better than some of the people here today because of the rain. I’m really excited to make it; it was one of my big goals this year. I haven’t been throwing as far as I want to, but at least I made it to nationals, which was really important to me.”
In the women’s hurdles, sophomores Morgan Struble and Nnenya Hailey both automatically advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal at 5:45 p.m. MST. In heat one, Hailey won the race out of lane five with a time of 57.10, the second-best time of her career. Struble took third place in heat two out of lane two with a time of 59.42, the No. 3 time of her career. The rain had been stopped for quite a bit and then started up again just before the start of Hailey’s race, the first event on the track. The rain then stopped about five minutes after Struble’s race and did not return the rest of the evening. Nevertheless, they moved on.
In the men’s 1,500-meter race preliminary round, senior Lawi Lalang won heat four and took second place overall with a time of 3:42.85. He automatically advanced to the quarterfinal on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. MST. Junior Sam Macaluso finished 29th overall with a personal-best time of 3:45.89. In the women’s 1,500-meter race, sophomore Kate Penney clocked a time of 4:22.40 and automatically advanced to the quarterfinal at 4:45 p.m. MST on Saturday. Penney took fourth place in heat two, 12th overall.
Senior Germe Poston automatically advanced to the quarterfinal of the women’s 100-meter dash on Friday at 4:45 p.m. MST. Poston took third place in heat two with a time of 11.73 (0.0 wind). On the men’s side, junior Mohammad Alhasan clocked a time of 10.69 (+0.7) and failed to advance to the quarterfinal.
Freshman Miles Parish clocked a time of 46.55 in the men’s 400-meter sprint. The second-best time of his career was good for fourth place in heat one and 14th overall. He will run in the quarterfinal on Friday at 4 p.m. MST. On the women’s side, senior Shapri Romero won heat six with a time of 52.99 and automatically advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal at 4:15 p.m. MST. Her time was good for seventh place overall.
In the men’s 800-meter run, freshman Collins Kibet clocked a personal-best time of 1:49.75, good for second place in heat six and 11th place overall. He automatically advanced to the quarterfinal on Friday at 5 p.m. MST. In the women’s 800 meters, senior Meg Bellino posted a time of 2:09.65, taking 27th place overall. She did not advance to the quarterfinal.
“I was really happy for him,” Elvin Kibet said of Collins’ race. “He’s a freshman and he was a little nervous but that’s good, that’s really good for him. I’m happy for him.”
In the men’s long jump competition, freshman Avery Mickens posted a mark of 22-8.5 (6.92m, -0.1 wind). That mark was good for 42nd overall, he did not advance to the final in Eugene. Mickens scratched on his first two attempts and struggled to get on the board
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat men’s and women’s track and field, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and follow @ArizonaTrack on Twitter. Live results will be available at flashresults.com.