By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
Under blue skies and in front of several hundred fans, the ACU track and field team produced 19 new or improved qualifying marks at the Oliver Jackson Open at Elmer Gray Stadium on Saturday. The meet attracted several area college teams and a handful of elite track and field athletes, including former world champion J.J. Johnson, who trains in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
But the story of the day was the performance of the Wildcat athletes, most of whom posted new or improved automatic or provisional qualifying marks for the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which will take place May 26 through 28 at Elmer Gray Stadium.
“It was a great day,” said head coach Jon Murray. “We had some fantastic things happen.”
The men’s 200-meter dash featured Johnson, along with other elite and collegiate athletes, but the race’s winner was ACU sophomore Marvin Bien-Aime, who posted swift time of 20.61. The time would have been an automatic qualifying mark and nation-leading performance, but the wind at race time was over the legal limit.
Elton Garus-Oab was fourth in the race with a provisional time of 20.91, followed by Delt Cockrell in sixth place with a provisional time (21.13).
Sophomore Marvin Essor posted a strong provisional time of 46.55 in the 400-meter dash, successfully winning the event. Essor also ran the third leg of the men’s 4×400-meter relay team, which was barely edged out by Southwestern Christian in the final and most exciting race of the afternoon. ACU managed to post a strong provisional and nation-leading time of 3:09.52 in the event, however.
The men’s 4×100-meter relay team also qualified provisionally, winning its event with a time of 40.6.
Freshman Nicodemus Naimadu, who ran the best 5,000-meter time in Division II track and field last week, qualified Saturday in the 1,500-meter run. Naimadu never trailed in the race, which he won easily with a provisional time of 3:49.05.
The men’s jumpers and pole vaulters had a successful meet as well. Tarrant Fuller was a provisional qualifier in the long jump, placing third with a jump of 24-1. Senior Ben Washington won the triple jump with a fine jump of 52-7 _, which under normal circumstances would have been an automatic qualifying mark if not for a strong wind at his back during the winning jump. Washington still will remain a provisional qualifier for his performance Saturday. Teammate Yevgen Pashchenko was third in the the triple jump with an automatic mark of 51-5 _.
Cory Aguilar was matched up against two of his top Division II pole vault competitors from Lewis University, but the junior managed to place second with a vault of 16-0. Aguilar has already qualified for the national meet in the pole vault.
The women may have had an even more successful day than the men, if new or improved qualifying marks are any indication. Leading the women was the middle distance trio of Olha Kryv’yak, Trina Cox, and Adeh Mwamba, who placed first, second and third, respectively, in the 3,000-meter run. The trio stuck together until just over two laps were left to go, when Kryv’yak pulled away and won the race with a strong provisional time of 9:51.03. Cox, a junior, was second in 9:55.8, also a provisional time. Mwamba was third with a provisional time of 10:07.36. Last weekend, Mwamba and Kry’vyak posted the top two 1,500-meter times in the nation at the Stanford Invitational.
The women’s pole vaulters put on a show for the crowd Saturday, as seniors Katie Eckley and Val Gorter placed first and third, respectively. Gorter failed three times to clear 12-9, but teammate Eckley cleared the height and even attempted 13-4, which would have been the new Division II record. Eckley failed to clear the record height, but still won the event with a wining height of 12-9, an improved provisional mark. Gorter’s mark of 12-3 _ was also good for a provisional qualification.
Sophomore Jessica Hunt was a double winner Saturday, placing first in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Hunt ran a provisional qualifying time of 11.75 in the 100-meter dash and a winning time of 24.08 in the 200 meters. Hunt’s time in the 200-meter dash was fast enough to qualify her provisionally for the national meet, but the wind at her back was over the legal limit.
Freshman Denise Morgan won the 800-meter run with a provisional qualifying time of 2:11.97. Shawna-Kaye Thom-pson also provisionally qualified Saturday, placing third in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.13.
The women’s relays had positive showings Saturday as well. The 4×100-meter relay team got the running events started off well, winning the event with a provisional and nation-leading time of 45.66. And in the last women’s event of the day, the 4×400-meter relay team provisionally qualified with a winning time of 3:44.92.
Murray attributed much of his team’s success to the weather on Saturday.
“We’re in the kind of shape this time of year that if we get some good luck, our athletes can perform well,” he said. “The weather was fantastic.”
Later this week, Murray and several of the top Wildcat relay teams will travel to Austin to participate in the 78th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, one of the prestigious track and field meets in United States track and field.