Eugene, Ore. – The University of Arizona Wildcat No. 12 men’s and No. 23 women’s track and field teams will head back to Eugene, Ore. This time, the Wildcats will compete in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Historic Hayward Field will play host to the final meet of the collegiate season on June 11-14. In 2013, the men’s team took 10th place while the women’s team tied for a sixth-place finish.
Arizona will compete against the best athletes from the best teams in the country in Eugene. On the men’s side, UA will go up against No. 1 Oregon, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 4 Arkansas, No. 5 Texas and many others. The UA women will compete against No. 1 Texas, No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Florida, No. 5 Kentucky and many more.
The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association (USTFCCCA) released the week nine rankings for the 2014 outdoor season on June 3. The men’s team is 12th and the women are ranked 23rd. In the men’s rankings, Oregon is first, USC is 13th and UCLA is 25th. On the women’s side, Oregon is No. 3, Stanford is No. 10 and USC is No. 13.
On Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. MST, redshirt freshman Aaron Castle will compete in the men’s shot put. Castle posted the 23rd-best toss of all 24 athletes that advanced from the east and west preliminaries to Eugene. He threw 60-4 (18.39m), the second-best toss of his career. Castle entered the NCAA West Preliminaries ranked 18th but ended up finishing in 11th place overall. Castle, the Pac-12 Championships runner-up in the event, has a season-best toss of 60-5.75 (18.43m) at the LSU Alumni Gold.
Also on Wednesday, senior Shapri Romero will run in the semifinal round of the women’s 400 meters at 5:15 p.m. MST. Romero clocked the No. 18 time of the 24 athletes that advanced to Eugene in the event, 52.86. Her season-best time of 51.96 came at the UA-ASU-NAU Double Dual, the No. 2 time in UA history. She earned all-conference honors in the event, taking fourth place at the Pac-12 Championships. Should she advance to the final, it will take place at 6 p.m. MST on Friday.
Sophomore Nnenya Hailey will also compete for the Wildcats on Wednesday. Hailey will run the semifinal of the 400-meter hurdles at 6:30 p.m. MST. Hailey enters the race with the No. 12 time among the 24 athletes, 56.99. Hailey’s time of 56.99 at the NCAA West Preliminaries was a personal best and the No. 3 time in UA history. Hailey earned a runner-up finish in the 400-meter hurdles at the Pac-12 Championships, clocking a time of 57.40. Should Hailey advance, the final will take place on Friday at 4:41 p.m. MST.
On Thursday, redshirt freshman Jordan Young will compete in the hammer throw final. Young has the No. 20 mark, 205-2 (62.55m), entering the competition with 24 athletes from the east and west regions. Young’s personal-best toss of 224-0 (68.28m) came at the LSU Alumni Gold and is the third-best toss in school history. Young earned a third-place finish in the event at the Pac-12 Championships. He also took third place in the shot put competition and eighth place in the discus throw, claiming all-conference honors in all three events.
Romero will compete in the semifinal of the 200-meter sprint on Thursday at 4:15 p.m. Romero enters the competition with the No. 12 time of the 24 athletes at 23.20. Romero’s season-best time of 23.10 took place at the Jim Click Shootout and ranks second on the UA all-time list. Romero finished in fifth place in the event at the Pac-12 Championships with a time of 23.77. She became the first Wildcat in program history to earn all-conference honors in both the 200 meters and 400 meters, not only in the same meet, but overall. Should Romero advance to Saturday’s final, the gun will go off at 2:49 p.m. MST.
Senior Lawi Lalang will compete in the semifinal round of the 1,500 meters on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Lalang has the top time in the country at 3:36.34, the No. 2 time of his career. He also has the No. 1 time from the east and west preliminaries at 3:40.35. Lalang won his third conference title in the event at this year’s Pac-12 Championships, that his where he clocked his time of 3:36.34. He is the fourth athlete in conference history to win three titles in the men’s 1,500-meter race. Volunteer assistant coach Bernard Lagat is one of the other athletes to accomplish that feat. Lalang also broke his own Pac-12 Championship record; he previously set the record of 3:38.53 in 2013. If Lalang advances to the final, it will commence on Saturday at 2:18 p.m. MST.
At 7:15 p.m. MST on Thursday, redshirt junior Elvin Kibet will compete in the 10,000-meter final. Kibet enters the competition with the 13th-best time of the 24 athletes. Her time of 34:07.85 at the NCAA West Preliminaries was good for a spot in the final in Eugene. Kibet’s season-best time of 32:40.22 came at the Mt. SAC Relays and is the second-best time in program history. Kibet earned a third-place finish in the event at the Pac-12 Championships with a time of 34:35.33.
Redshirt senior Nick Ross will compete in the final of the men’s high jump on Friday at 3:20 p.m. Ross is tied for the second-best clearance in the competition from the east and west preliminaries, 7-1 (2.16m). Ross has the No. 1 clearance in the country on the year, 7-6.5 (2.30m). That mark came at the UA-ASU-NAU Double Dual and broke the school record of 7-6 (2.29m) set by James Frazier in 1980. Ross won his third conference title in the event at this year’s Pac-12 Championships with a clearance of 7-5.75 (2.28m). Ross and Dick Fosbury are the only two athletes in conference history to win three high jump titles. Ross also earned all-conference accolades in the long jump and triple jump.
Lalang will return to the track on Friday at 6:10 p.m. to try and defend his title in the men’s 5,000 meters. Lalang heads into the competition with the No. 2 time, 13:43.55, in the field of 24 athletes. Lalang’s season-best time of 13:41.44 came at the Pac-12 Championships, good for a first-place finish. With that victory, Lalang garnered six conference championships over the course of his track and field career. He won three in the 1,500 meters, two in the 5K and 1 in the 10K. The only person in conference history with more individual titles than Lalang is UA alumnus Robert Cheseret, who won eight. Lalang and three other athletes have won six. Lalang holds the school record in the event, 13:00.95, the fastest time ever run by a collegiate athlete, it is not the collegiate record because it did not take place during the collegiate season. Lalang is the only athlete at the NCAA Championships, man or woman that is doubling in the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters.
At 1 p.m. MST on Saturday, senior Julie Labonte will throw the shot put for the Wildcats. Labonté has the No. 8 mark entering the competition, 55-2.75 (16.83m). Labonté has a season-best mark of 57-3 (17.45m) that came at the LSU Alumni Gold. Labonté won the Pac-12 Championship in the event with a toss of 57-2 (17.42m). She is only the seventh woman in conference history to win four conference titles in one event and the first to ever do it in the shot put. Labonté also earned all-conference accolades in the discus. She is the second woman in program history earn all-conference accolades in the shot put and discus all four years of her career.
On Saturday at 3:24 p.m., Kibet will run the final of the 5,000 meters. Heading into the competition, Kibet has No. 13 time of the 24 athletes, 16:06.51. That was Kibet’s season-best time as well. She has only ran the 5K three times on the year, the first was when she ran alone for three of the 5,000 meters at the Pepsi Oregon Dual. The second 5K she ran was at the Pac-12 Championships where she finished in third place overall with a time of 16:19.14. Kibet doubled in both the 5K and 10K at the 2012 NCAA Championships as well, she redshirted the 2013 season.
Finalist for the 2013 The Bowerman, Lawi Lalang is the all-time Watch List appearance leader, regardless of gender, with 24, including eight this season. His is Arizona’s 26th appearance on the Men’s Watch List, second as a program only to Florida’s 65. The final Watch List for the year was announced on June 4.
Along with fellow returning The Bowerman Finalist Julian Wruck of UCLA, he will attempt to become just the second male student-athlete to repeat as a Finalist. The other, Ashton Eaton of Oregon, won The Bowerman in his second appearance in 2010.
The Wildcats have had three student-athletes earn Pac-12 Athlete of the Week honors on four occasions this year. Julie Labonté was named Pac-12 Women’s Field Athlete of the Week on April 1 and April 15. Avery Mickens claimed Pac-12 Men’s Field Athlete of the Week on April 8. Nick Ross earned the same honor as Mickens on April 15. Lawi Lalang was named the USTCCCA National Athlete of the Week on May 19.
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 on flashresults.com.