AUSTIN — Texas Tech’s plane to Des Moines, Iowa, will have a lot more seats spoken for after Saturday.
On the final day of the NCAA West Preliminary, the Red Raiders qualified seven individuals and two relays to the NCAA outdoor track and field championships. The meet was still in progress late Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium with Tech having a chance to add both its men’s and women’s 1,600-meter relay teams.
Hurdlers Shane Brathwaite and Katie Grimes, both highly ranked all season, took care of business to earn trips to the NCAA outdoor June 6-9 at Des Moines. Brathwaite ran a time of 13.57 seconds, which was second in his heat and fifth overall, easily enough to claim one of the West regional’s 12 spots at the national meet.
Grimes, a junior from Canyon, went through the women’s 100-meter hurdles in 13.25, qualifying third in her heat and ninth overall.
“It means a lot,” Grimes said. “I definitely didn’t run as well as I wanted to. I think I was on pace for a good run, but I clipped that last hurdle.”
The Red Raiders had a handful of younger team members come through. Sophomore pole vaulter Kyal Meyers cleared 17 feet, 61/2 inches to tie for seventh.
They’ll all be joined at nationals by three Tech freshmen: Kole Weldon qualified fifth in men’s discus, throwing 191-11; JaCorian Duffield qualified seventh in men’s high jump, going 7-11/2; and Cierra White snared the last spot in the women’s 200 meters, clocking 23.54.
Duffield won the Class 2A state championship last spring at Mike A. Myers Stadium, when he was a senior at University City Randolph. Now it’s on to the NCAA outdoor in his first college campaign.
“Honestly, I’m truly blessed,” Duffield said. “Today was pretty tough. You had to clear some big bars on first attempts. I’m just blessed that I cleared 7-11/2 on my first attempt.”
The Tech women will have two entries in the 200. Senior Taylor Evans got third in her heat of the women’s 200, and her time of 23.26 ranked seventh overall.
Tech got off to a good start in the running-event portion of the meet Saturday night with both sprint relays advancing. The men’s team of Ben McRoy, Gil Roberts, Brathwaite and Bryce Lamb took second in their heat in 39.76. The women’s team of Erica Alexander, Taylor Evans, Candace Jackson and Terra Evans were third in their heat in 44.34.
The NCAA added the regional layer of competition in 2004, a meet that puts highly ranked athletes in a nerve-wracking position. There are no at-large berths to the NCAA outdoor based on regular-season performance, so everyone must earn one of the 12 national-meet berths up for grabs at the preliminary.
Tech had three such disappointments in the first two days of the meet. Second-ranked Shade Weygandt didn’t get out in the pole vault, and thrower Ifeatu Okafor — ranked among the top dozen in both women’s shot put and discus — didn’t advance in either.
Lamb’s role in the sprint relay Saturday salvaged a national-meet trip for him, though not in the horizontal jumps where he is ranked top-10 in both. The Tech junior, battling a heel injury since the Big 12 meet, was scratched from the triple jump and fouled on all three of his attempts in the long jump.
Some of the Red Raiders’ other team leaders fared better on the first two days. Gil Roberts and Jamele Mason easily advanced through the regional rounds, Roberts in the 400, an event in which he is defending U.S. champion, and Mason in the 400-meter hurdles, an event in which he is a two-time all-American.
Rose Tanui qualified for national in the 10,000 meters on Thursday, and Terra Evans on Friday qualified for her third trip to the NCAA outdoor in the 100.