By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
The men’s 4×400-meter relay squad posted the nation’s top Division II time Saturday at the Raider Raider Classic in Lubbock, also qualifying automatically for the Indoor National Championships. Ten individuals qualified provisionally in their respective events, but the 4×400-meter relay was the story of the day.
ACU led powerhouse Texas Tech for the first three legs of the race before handing off to sophomore anchorman Delt Cockrell. Cockrell was up against a fine quarter-miler himself-2002 Abilene High School state champion Jonathan Johnson. The two dueled the entire two laps around the 200-meter track, Cockrell securing the pivotal inside lane the entire time. In the last 10 meters, however, Johnson was too much for Cockrell, and Texas Tech edged the Wildcat squad with a 3:09.89 mark.
ACU’s time of 3:10.05, however, was its best since 2000.
“There was a lot of nervousness-the first time to run it, a whole new team,” Cockrell said. “I feel like we performed well. It was disappointing we lost to them, but also it’s good we qualified.”
Head coach Jon Murray said having Texas Tech on the track certainly helped ACU’s performance.
“They’re a very good team, so we knew they’d push it,” Murray said.
Six others qualified provisionally for the first time at Saturday’s meet. Junior all-American Bernard Manirakiza won the 800 meters with a provisional time of 1:51.84, while sophomore Elton Garus-Oab qualified in the 55 meters with at time of 6.37. Freshman transfer Marvin Essor posted a qualifying time in the open 400-meter dash, placing third in 47.93.
Three women placed four new provisional qualifying marks Saturday, including two pole vaulters. Junior Katie Eckley and freshman Amanda Steffins joined junior Val Gorter on the provisional list, clearing 11-11 3/4 and 11-5 3/4, respectively. Gorter, who qualified provisionally at last weekend’s Texas Tech All-Comers Meet, placed second in Saturday’s competition and bettered her provisional mark by clearing 12-5 1/2.
The other qualifier for the women was freshman Liga Klavina, who qualified provisionally in two events – the long jump (18-4) and the 55-meter hurdles (8.15).
Murray said Saturday’s performances were impressive, but neither teams should ease up on the work ethic that has brought them this far.
“It’s another great step toward what we are trying to do-get as many people to nationals as possible,” Murray said. “The guys need to keep after it, and the girls need to work a little more in the sprints to really make a difference.”
ACU will compete one more time in Lubbock this season, participating in the Red Raider Invitational on Friday. For complete results from Saturday’s Red Raider Classic, visit http://texastech.ocsn.com/sports/c-track/stats/013104aaa.html.