The University of Arizona Wildcat No. 20 men’s and No. 14 women’s track and field teams wrapped up competition at NCAA West Preliminaries in Fayetteville, Ark. The NCAA West Preliminaries is the first and second rounds of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Arkansas’ John McDonnell Field played host to the meet. The semifinals and finals of the NCAA Championships will take place June 11-14 in Eugene, Ore. At the end of the meet, the Wildcats will send four student-athletes from the women’s team and four from the men’s team to Eugene.
“I’m very happy with the meet overall,” head coach Fred Harvey said. “I like the position that we are in going into the NCAA Championships because everybody that is going legitimately has an opportunity to score there at the finals. We’re pretty excited about that. All in all, we’re out of here healthy.”
Senior Lawi Lalang, the seven-time NCAA Champion will look to add two more to his collection at the NCAA Championships in Eugene. In 2013, Lalang had the No. 1 time in the country for the 1,500 meters even through the NCAA Championships, but chose to run the 5K and 10K at the NCAA West Preliminaries. He ended up winning individual titles in both events. On Saturday, the senior from Eldoret, Kenya was first in heat one and first overall in the 1,500-meter quarterfinal with a time of 3:40.35. Lalang returned to the track for the 5K and took second place overall and in heat two with an easy time of 13:43.55. It is the third-straight year Lalang has qualified for two races at the semifinals/finals of the NCAA Championships.
“We were trying to take it as easy as possible,” Lalang said. “90 minutes after the 1,500 meters was the 5K. So I ran easy and well controlled. (In the 5K) I had a plan of following (Kennedy) Kithuka (Texas Tech) for a while and just staying in good position so I don’t have to worry about making it to nationals. Once I was in a good position, I just took it easy. I’m really confident. I’m going to go there and do my best, I know I’m in great shape.”
In the women’s 5,000-meter race, redshirt junior Elvin Kibet finished in fourth place overall and fourth place in heat two with a time of 16:06.51. It is the second-straight year (redshirted 2013) that Kibet has reached the finals of the 5K and 10K at the NCAA Championships. In 2012, Kibet earned first-team All-America accolades in the 10K and second-team honors in the 5K.
“The race was really good,” Kibet said. “Coach (James) Li just told me to go in there and stay in the front and wait until they start kicking to go. I followed the plan perfectly and it was good. I was able to hold the pace until the end, too. I’m really happy that I’m able to go to Eugene and race the 5K and 10K. It’s been a really great season so far and I’m really excited because I’m ending the season performing well and I don’t take that for granted at all. I’m really happy that I’m able to help out the team and get as many points as possible.”
Senior Shapri Romero added another event to her slate at the NCAA Championships in Eugene on Saturday. She took 10th place overall and fourth place in heat two with a time of 23.20 (+1.4 wind). That is the second-best time of her career. It is the first time she has made the semifinals of the NCAA Championships, and she will be competing in two events for the Wildcats.
In the men’s discus competition, freshman Gerhard De Beer had a personal-best toss of 182-3 (55.57m) but failed to advance to Eugene, taking 15th place overall. In the women’s high jump competition, junior Shakayla McEaddy cleared 5-7.75 (1.72m), she took 29th place due to misses. Senior Nick Ross fouled on his first two attempts in the triple jump, his third attempt was 47-3 (14.40m), good for 40th place.
In the women’s 4x100-meter relay consisting of senior Tamara Pridgett, Romero, sophomore Traci-Lynn Hicks and senior Germe Poston, the Wildcats took 13th place with a time of 44.83. 12th place, the last qualifying spot, clocked a time of 44.79. The women’s 4x400-meter relay team of sophomore Nnenya Hailey, freshman Jasper Gray, Pridgett and Romero finished in 15th place overall and fifth place in heat three. They finished the race with a time of 3:37.02. Sophomore Kate Penney could not complete the women’s 1,500-meter quarterfinal, with around 100 meters to go, she collapsed on the track due to some complications. She is in good condition now; she was helped off the track and was later walking around without any problems.
In the men’s 5K, junior Sam Macaluso clocked a time of 14:22.58 and finished in 21st place overall. On the women’s side, junior Molly Callahan had a time of 17:10.02 and finished in 38th place overall.
The women’s team will send Romero in the 200 meters and 400 meters to Eugene. Kibet will run the 5K and 10K. Hailey will compete in the 400-meter hurdles and senior Julie Labonte will compete in the shot put. The men’s squad will send Lalang in the 1,500 meters and 5K. Ross will compete in the high jump. Redshirt freshman Aaron Castle in the shot put and redshirt freshman Jordan Young in the hammer throw.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat men’s and women’s track and field, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and follow @ArizonaTrack on Twitter.