May 11, 2007

Track hits standards for NCAAs at Butler, will try again at Keeler

Continuing down the road to NCAAs, members of track and field have held their own this year and are proving that they deserve places in the postseason. Both squads have made it through the winter and are enjoying their time on the sunny track as they prepare for the upcoming meets.

Competing at the Butler Twilight last weekend, the Maroons gunning for a spot at nationals supported their case a place among the best of DIII. They’ll try to make another statement today at the Dr. Keeler Invite in Naperville.

“We’re in meets now where we are having open competitions instead of team points and scores,” head coach Chris Hall said. “What we’re really trying to do is improve performances as people try to qualify for the NCAA tournament.”

At Butler, third-year Zach Rodgers and first-year Nicole Murphy set the pace for Chicago, earning UAA Athlete of the Week honors for their performances.

Rodgers notched a season-best 6.78 meters in the long jump to win the event, edging out Heidelberg College third-year Greg Tyson’s 6.76-meter. Interestingly, Tyson was also named Athlete of the Week in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

Posting a provisional qualifying distance in the shot put with 12.84 meters, Murphy finished sixth in the event and also established a new school record with the throw. Her mark was the best recorded by a D-III athlete in the 20-competitor field, and her toss of 45.27 meters for 11th in the hammer throw fell just short of qualification.

“We had some really wonderful performances last week. Two girls hit national standard and qualified for the NCAA Championship,” Hall said.

Joining Murphy among the women’s leaders last Saturday, second-year Rachel Venezia also achieved provisional qualification, running an 11:14.61 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“We’re pretty pleased. I look at our women’s team and I see a squad that’s ranked sixth in the country,” Hall said. “I’m really proud of those girls and what they have accomplished. We have a balanced team.”

With the Dr. Keeler Invite going on all day today, it’s the second-to-last meet scheduled before the NCAA Championship May24–26. Rodgers, Murphy, Venezia, and others will face their final shot to make the cut with another trip to Naperville for the North Central Last Chance next Friday.

“We have very high hopes for this weekend,” Hall said.

Running a 15.55 in the 100-meter hurdles, fourth-year Nellie Movtchan nearly hit the NCAA standard last week and will look to build off of that strong finish today.

Other national hopefuls include the women’s long-distance runners in the 10k and the 4x100 meter team. The sprinters came very close to qualifying at Butler with their fourth-place time of 49.12. The quartet ended at the heels of Valparaiso University, which clocked a 48.33.

On the men’s side, it’s mostly the veterans pushing for their spot at NCAAs.

“The men’s squad is much younger, but they’ve already done great things and we’re setting ourselves up for a great future,” Hall said.

Rodgers will focus today’s meet on continuing to prepare for the decathlon. Fourth-year Emil Bojanov isn’t out of the race yet, especially after placing first in the men’s 1,500-meter run at Butler. He ran a 3:56.08 and finished more than a second ahead of unattached runner Chris George, who pulled in second with a 3:57.83.

“Overall, we have some people that are going to do some great things over the next few weeks,” Hall said.