By Steve Holt, Copy Editor
As the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field National Championships app-roach quickly, head coach Jon Murray knows that his main responsibility right now is getting people qualified to participate.
On the men’s side, 13 athletes have qualified either provisionally or automatically in eight events. Twelve women have qualified provisionally or automatically in 11 events.
Saturday about 35 men and women will have their next-to-last opportunities to qualify or better their qualifying times at the Sooner Indoor Invitational in Norman, Okla. Oklahoma will be ACU’s biggest competition in the men’s events, while Arkansas will challenge the women.
“For several people this is an important meet,” Murray said. “And for some, it will be their last chance to qualify.”
Last weekend at the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., the men’s 4×400-relay team ran its best time in several years, but were told on the drive home that the performance had been disqualified.
The team will get a chance to replicate last weekend’s 3:12 effort, and Murray said the runners have some motivation.
“They’re going to be excited to get going because of the disqualification last weekend,” Murray said.
Freshman Cory Aguilar has seen great success in the pole vault so far, and he hasn’t even cleared his personal best from high school. He will get his chance to qualify automatically Saturday by clearing the standard of 16-8 3/4.
Junior Jean-Marie Ndikumana and sophomore Martin O’Kello will compete in the men’s mile and 800 meters with hopes to qualify automatically in both events. Ndikumana and O’Kello have already qualified provisionally in the events. Junior Nick Branen will get his first shot to qualify in the mile.
Sophomore Ben Washington and freshman DaRay Sims, who have posted provisional marks in the triple jump, will get to compete for automatic marks Saturday. Washington and freshman Yevgen Pashchenko will also attempt to qualify in the long jump.
Senior sprint star Nic Alexander will be the favorite to win the men’s 60-meter dash, an event he dominated at last weekend’s Tyson Invitational.
Several women will attempt to move from the provisional to the automatic qualifiers list, paced by good competition in Arkansas.
Senior Althea Johnson and sophomore Sofi Hildenborg will try to qualify automatically in the 400-meter dash, while senior Shauna-Gaye Stephens will compete in the 55-meter hurdles for an automatic bid to nationals. Stephens will be joined by freshmen Angela Campbell and Olessya Belyayeva in the long jump, both of whom have qualified provisionally.
Sophomores Katie Eckley and Val Gorter, who finished third and 14th, respectively, at the 2002 outdoor nationals, will try to clear the automatic height of 13-0 1/4.