May 23, 2013
GREENSBORO, N.C., - Michigan State track and field advanced four Spartans on the first day of the 2013 NCAA East Preliminary Championships on Thursday at the Irwin Belk Track inside Aggie Stadium. At the meet hosted by North Carolina A&T State, Lonnie Pugh, Antonio James and Beth Rohl each punched their ticket to the NCAA Championships in the discus, while Keenan Michael earned a place in the quarterfinals of the 400-meter hurdles.
In order to advance to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., individuals need to place in the top-12 of their respective event.
“I saw everybody competing today,” said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. “One of the things you don’t come to a meet like this to turn on a switch; there’s got to be a sequence of things that happen leading into an event like this in order to have the success that you want. We all raced well and we raced as hard as we could so from an effort stand point, I don’t have any complaints. We’ve got some things to look forward to tomorrow and that’s the plan.”
To kick off the day, redshirt sophomore Antonio James and redshirt senior Lonnie Pugh became the first two Spartans to qualify for nationals placing in the top-12 of the men’s discus. Making his second-straight appearance at the preliminary meet, fifth-seeded James finished fourth-overall by earning his qualifying mark of 57.94m/ 190-1 in his final throw. A No. 14 seed, Pugh qualified with his first throw of 55.29m/ 181-4 in his fourth and final regional championships to place ninth overall and advance to nationals.
Also advancing to the NCAA Championships in the discus is redshirt senior Beth Rohl. It is her fourth time to earn a trip to the national meet, throwing a mark of 53.02m/173-11 to place fourth overall.
“The big thing about this meet was to be top-12,” said assistant coach John Newell. “There are long flights and long warm up periods, so it can be really challenging to keep your focus. But that’s the biggest thing. This meet is about keeping your composure and keeping your focus and they did a good job of that. That’s what’s important.”
Redshirt senior Keenan Michael kept his hopes alive as he won his heat in the 400-meter hurdles to advance to the quarterfinals. As the first to cross the finish line with a time of 51.85, Michael will look to place in the top-15 of the quarterfinals to be held on Friday.
“It was nice to see Keenan come back around,” Drenth said. “Keenan’s had some good practices and was a little out-of-sync at the conference meet, but it’s nice to see him coming back around with a legitimate chance to go to Oregon.”
The Spartans will be back in action tomorrow as they continue to seek qualification to the NCAA Championships. Events contested tomorrow for MSU will be the women’s discus, women’s pole vault, men’s shot put, men’s 400-meter hurdles quarterfinal, women’s 200-meter dash and the men’s and women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.