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EUGENE, Ore. - Michigan State track & field had a solid showing from its three men’s athletes in the opening day of the NCAA Track & Field Championships at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, with one advancing, another in good position to move up at the halfway point and the third earning All-American accolades.
Junior Justine Kiprotich advanced to Friday’s final of the 1,500m race by finishing second in his heat, while junior Tim Ehrhardt had a solid outing at the halfway mark of the decathlon and junior Noah Gary earned second-team All-American with a 14th-place finish in the pole vault.
“I think they all did really great. I think that Tim (Ehrhardt) had a couple struggles, but I really liked how he attacked the 400m, and that is usually indicative of a good competitor. I think he re-calibrated himself and got back in the mix,” said MSU Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Walt Drenth. “Noah was just outstanding today, cleared a couple bars. He had good attempts at a bar he had never cleared before, and as always Justin was good. These guys did a nice job today.”
Kiprotich advanced to his first NCAA final in the 1,500m. The Big Ten Champion finished second in the second heat and 11th overall with a time 3:44.74. He was just shy of his personal best time of 3:42.36 set at the Virginia Challenge in April. Craig Engles of Mississippi had the fastest time of the day, clocking in with a time of 3:40.07.
“It feels amazing, totally amazing. This is my first time out here in Eugene, and it just feels great,” Kiprotich said.
“He understood that when the first heat was fast that he was going to have to be top five. Tactically, when their race went out, I didn’t want him to lead. When their race went out slower, he knew what the objective was,” Drenth said.
The Spartan was able to watch the first heat of the 1,500m while he was warming up for his second flight.
“I saw that first 100 meters and it was 13 seconds and the first 300 meters was 43, 44 seconds and I thought ‘oh man they’re out hot!’ But I had a little bit of a sigh of relief knowing that if we started that fast, I’d get a second wind and knew that if I wasn’t sixth or seventh, that would come back to bite me,” Kiprotich said. “I was hoping and expecting our heat would go out slow pace, but there’s no slow pace here at Nationals.”
Ehrhardt started strong in the 100m with a personal-best time of 10.75. His previous best was 10.96 in 2015. He earned 917 points after the fast time in the opening event. He followed with a long jump of 7.17m, which garnered 854 points. In the shot put, Ehrhardt tallied 628 points with a throw of 12.35m. In the fourth event of the first day of competition, the junior chalked up 653 points with a high jump of 1.83m.
In the final decathlon event of the day, Ehrhardt had one of his strongest performances in the 400m. He had a season-best time of 48.54 to win the second heat, finishing sixth overall in the event. Half way through the event Ehrhardt is 15th with 3,935 points.
“One of the big events for Tim tomorrow is the pole vault. To be really good at the multi-events you have to be able to ebb and flow. You have to let the good things run off your back, and you have to go of the things that don’t go very well,” said Drenth. “Hopefully he is going to come back tomorrow just be excited to compete.”
Gary finished 14th in the men’s pole vault in his first appearance in the NCAA Championships, earning second-team All-American accolades by finishing in the top 16. He cleared both 5.15m and 5.30m on his second attempt. On three attempts, Gary was not able to clear 5.45m, which would have been a personal best.
“A competition like this is invaluable for Noah. He has gotten better every year. After being here, he will have great perspective, and have an idea what it takes to score. This is an outstanding opportunity to really engage and clear a couple bars,” Drenth said.
On Thursday, June 8, the ladies take center stage along with the conclusion of the decathlon. Ehrhardt and the decathletes will open action on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. (ET) with the 110 hurdles. For the Spartan women, senior Hannah Sailar will begin the pole vault at 8 p.m. (ET), while junior Jade Madison start the javelin at 8:45 p.m. (ET).
Thursday’s action will be on ESPN Network, fans should check local listings for complete broadcast information.