By Steve Holt, Copy Editor
Basking in the favorable track and field weather characteristics of bright sunlight and minimal wind, five men and four women posted provisional qualifying marks at the David Noble Angelo State Relays in San Angelo on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The nine additional qualifiers brings ACU’s total number to 28 athletes or relay teams that have qualified either provisionally or automatically for the Division II Track and Field National Championships May 22-24.
Freshman Cory Aguilar vaulted to second on the Division II pole vault list with his winning mark of 16-7 3/4. The height was a personal best for Aguilar, and head coach Jon Murray said it was a long time coming.
“He really needed that breakthrough after struggling since indoor nationals,” Murray said. “He got really close to 17-if he can do that at nationals, he can probably win it.”
Sophomore Tarrant Fuller also had a breakthrough in the men’s long jump with a season-best mark of 24-0 for second place and a provisional berth to nationals.
The event of the day, however, was the men’s 800-meter run. Junior Jean-Marie Ndikumana and sophomore Bernard Manirakiza tied for first with a strong provisional time of 1:49.92 and sophomore Martin O’Kello came in fourth with a provisional time of 1:50.89. The times put all three Wildcat runners at or near the top of the national performance list and virtually guarantee them a spot at nationals.
On the women’s side, junior Sofi Hildenborg qualified provisionally in the preliminaries of the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.05. Senior Marichea Austin also qualified provisionally in the preliminaries of the 400-meter dash with a time of 56.65.
Sophomore Val Gorter won the pole vault with a personal-best mark of 12-4. Teammate Katie Eckley was second in the event.
Earlier in the week in the heptathlon, Alice Bergstrom finished third with 4,732 points, a solid provisional qualifying number. Shauna-Gaye Stephens finished ninth with 2,147 points after not competing on the second day, but her winning time of 14.14 in the 100-meter hurdles was a provisional qualifying mark.
Wednesday through Saturday, 18 Wildcat track and field athletes and one relay team will travel to Walnut, Calif., to participate in the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays. Over 50 universities and colleges, as well as athletes from 12 countries will participate in the meet on the campus of Mt. San Antonio College.
Murray said the relays will “be a little more important” than those the past few weekends, because it will mark the first of only three remaining opportunities for ACU athletes and relays to qualify for the national meet.
Headlining the meet for ACU men will be senior Nic Alexander in the 100-meter dash, sophomore Manuel Brandenborn in the shot put, freshman Delt Cockrell in the 200- and 400-meter dashes, Manirakiza in the 1,760-yard run, freshman Elton Garus-Oab in the 200-meter dash, freshman Yevgen Pashchenko in the long and triple jumps, sophomore Shai Shalev in the shot put, junior Christie Van Wyk in the 100-meter dash, sophomore Ben Washington in the triple jump, sophomore Fuller in the long jump, freshman Ricardo Johnson in the 400-meter dash, O’Kello in the 1,500-meter run, Ndukimana in the 1,500-meters,
The women’s team will be represented by Hildenborg in the 200- and 400-meter dashes, senior Althea Johnson in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, senior Lakeshia Finch in the long jump, freshman Yuliya Stashkiv in the 1,500-meter run, senior Angie Waters in the 800-meter run and the 4×400-meter relay team.
A different group of ACU athletes will compete Thursday at the McMurry Indian Relays, which begin at 9 a.m.