By Steve Holt, Copy Editor
In two locations, the ACU track and field teams added to their lists of qualifiers on their way to the NCAA Division II Outdoor National Championship May 22-24 in Edwardsville, Ill.
Six Wildcat athletes and one relay team qualified either provisionally or automatically at the 76th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin and the Tarleton Relays in Stephenville.
Two athletes won their respective events at Texas Relays amid stiff Division I competition. Sophomore Bernard Manirakiza took first in the Jerry Thompson Invitational Mile with a time of 4:07.9. Sophomore Katie Eckley won the women’s Section B pole vault, clearing 12-7 1/2. Eckley qualified provisionally in the event earlier in the season.
Head coach Jon Murray dismissed the belief that only two wins at the meet was disappointing.
“It’s hard to win anything at the Texas Relays, so I think we did fine,” Murray said.
The automatic qualifiers at the Texas Relays were triple jumper Yevgen Pashchenko (3rd, 51-1 1/2) and shot-putter Shai Shalev (3rd, 60-1 1/4).
Freshman Yuliya Stashkiv placed seventh in the women’s 1,500-meter run, qualifying provisionally with a time of 4:28.21. Senior Shauna-Gaye Stephens posted a provisional mark in the women’s 100-meter hurdles, finishing in 14.58 in the preliminaries. At the Tarleton Relays, freshman Olessya Belyayeva qualified provisionally in the women’s long jump with a winning distance of 19-5 1/2.
The women’s 4×400-meter relay team also shot to the top of the Division II list with its time of 3:44.71 in the event at the Texas Relays, while the women’s 4×100-meter relay “B” team qualified. The 4×400-meter time was just short of an automatic qualifying time.
Winning their respective events at the Tarleton Relays were sophomore Nick Branen in the men’s 5,000-meter run and 3,000-meter steeplechase, and senior Angie Waters in the women’s 800-meter run.
Murray said for many athletes, the weekend’s relays were simply a chance to train and compete.
“For the next two or three weeks, we are just trying to qualify people,” he said.
A roadblock to additional qualifications could be the fact that four key athletes are battling back from injuries. Senior sprinter Nic Alexander, sophomore thrower Manuel Brandenborn, freshman Delt Cockrell and sophomore Alice Bergstrom are all hampered by injuries that leave them questionable for action this weekend.
Fifteen men and women and four relay teams have qualified for nationals with six meets remaining before the championship. Thursday through Saturday, the Wildcats will be at the Angelo State Relays in San Angelo.