May 24, 2013
GREENSBORO, N.C. - The Spartan track & field program advanced four more on the second day of the NCAA East Preliminary Championships at North Carolina A&T University. Keenan Michael, Sarah Birkmeier and Leah O’Connor each punched their ticket to the national meet, while Alicia Evans keeps her hopes alive by advancing to the 200-meter dash quarterfinals.
In order to advance to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., individuals need to place in the top-12 of their respective event.
“I thought we competed really well, maybe even better than we did yesterday as a whole,” said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. “I thought that we were really engaged from the beginning of the day. It’s a big momentum boost for the team to have meaningful performances. We had a lot of season-bests today. When you go to a championship and you have season and personal bests, that’s a really good sign of people who are engaging their competition and that’s what we ask them to do. So far we have a good group of people traveling to nationals and it looks like we’ll have a chance to advance a few more people tomorrow.”
Punching his ticket to his second NCAA Championships, redshirt senior Keenan Michael won his heat for the second day in a row to automatic qualify in the 400-meter hurdles. He clocked a season-best time of 51.33 in the quarterfinals to advance to nationals.
“Keenan out the gate and winning his section was good,” Drenth said. “He’s talented. He’s been through some ups and downs and good for him for staying the course. It’s great to see him getting in sync. It’s nice to see him get going.”
Also qualifying for the national meet was sophomore Sarah Birkmeier who will advance in the pole vault. She hit a personal record mark of 4.10m/ 13-5¼ to earn her first trip to the NCAA Championships.
“Everybody seemed to be jumping really well,” said assistant coach Ceith Creekmur. “So I was glad that Sarah was able to put together a personal best and really stay with the competition. She had a few chances where she was on her third attempt and she just did whatever it took to stay alive in the competition. Both of the girls jumped really well, so I’m proud of them both.”
Winning her heat in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, redshirt sophomore Leah O’Connor automatically qualified for the national meet for the second-straight year. She clocked a time of 10:00.73 to finish third overall in the event.
“Leah was steady and did exactly what we told her to do,” said Drenth. “She earned her spot to nationals.”
Sophomore Alicia Evans posted a season-best time of 23.71 in the 200-meter dash to place third in her heat and automatically qualify for Saturday’s quarterfinals.
The Spartans will continue with the third and final day of competition at the NCAA Regionals tomorrow. Saturday’s competition is set to begin at 1 p.m. and will include the men’s and women’s triple jump, the quarterfinals of the women’s 200-meter dash, the men’s and women’s 5,000-meter run and the women’s 4x400-meter relay.