Courtesy: Spencer Farrin (Pullman, Wash.)
|Thirteen Vandals qualify|
MOSCOW, Idaho – Thirteen University of Idaho men’s and women’s track and field athletes officially advanced to the NCAA West Preliminary Round with the NCAA’s announcement of the meet’s declared athletes on Thursday.
Seven Idaho men and six Idaho women will make the trip to Austin, Texas, to compete in the preliminary rounds of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in events ranging from the 400m dash to the javelin throw on May 24-26.
Representing the Vandal men are freshman Benjamin Ayesu-Attah (400m), senior Stephane Colle (5000m), senior Andrew Blaser (110m hurdles), sophomore Andrey Levkiv (shot put), sophomore Kyle Rothwell (hammer throw), junior Mike Marshall (javelin) and sophomore Ugis Svazs (javelin).
Vandal women making the trip are senior Erica Digby (1500m), sophomore Alycia Butterworth (3000m steeplechase), junior Kristine Leonard (discus throw), senior Gabby Midles (hammer throw), junior Sarah Nutsch (hammer throw) and junior Ellen Rouse (javelin).
“We feel really good about our group,” Idaho director of track and field/cross country Wayne Phipps said. “We had two more who had qualified but were unable to compete, so for us to have 15 who qualified, and 13 who will be competing is very good for us as a program.”
Among Idaho’s group, Midles is a three-time qualifier, while Blaser and Butterworth are repeat qualifiers, while the remaining 10 Vandals are first-time NCAA qualifiers.
“It’s exciting and amazing accomplishment for anyone to be a repeat qualifier, and for us to have this many new people is a great sign for our program that we’re progressing and moving in the right direction,” Phipps said.
Midles finished ninth at the 2010 preliminary meet and advanced to the NCAA Championships final round, where she took 13th. In 2011, she came up just short of a second-consecutive finals berth with a 19th-place finish at 184-0 (56.08m).
Butterworth, along with teammate Hannah Kiser, made history in 2011 as the first freshman NCAA qualifiers in Idaho women’s track and field history. Butterworth took 37th in the quarterfinal round of the steeplechase with a time of 10:39.71.
Blaser took 41st overall the in first round of the men’s 110m hurdles last season with a time of 14.79 in his first career NCAA action.
The NCAA Preliminary Round system replaced the Regional Championships in 2009. The nation is split between the East and West region, with the top 48 athletes in each event advancing to the NCAA Preliminary Round, at which they compete in the opening rounds through the semifinals of NCAA competition, depending on the event.
Phipps said the switch to the preliminary system, the removal of automatic advancement standards and qualifying rounds has added an entirely different element to the NCAA meet. The top 12 finishers in each event advance to the national finals, which will be held June 6-9 at Des Moines, Iowa.
“Once you’re at this meet, what you’ve done during the regular season doesn’t matter,” Phipps said. “The only way to qualify for the final round is to advance – it’ s just like one huge meet spread over two locations.
“I like that everyone is on an equal playing field once you get there, but it does put a ton of pressure on each student-athlete to compete. There’s an incredible level of competition and there’s no room for error, whatsoever.”