By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
The women’s track and field team added eight new provisional and one automatic qualifying marks or times, while the men’s team added three provisional and two automatic qualifiers, as ACU made strong showings at the University of New Mexico’s Albuquerque Invitational and the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark.
The biggest performance of the weekend came Friday evening in Fayetteville, where sophomore Nicodemus Naimadu broke the indoor school record in the university 5,000-meter run with a third-place time of 13:42.29 against the nation’s best Division one distance talent. Naimadu’s performance was an automatic qualifying time by about 20 seconds and exceeded head coach Don Hood’s expectations.
“I was thinking he might run around 14-flat,” Hood said with a chuckle. “But when you put a competitive person in that situation, they’re going to run pretty well. I’ll never put limits on what he can do anymore.”
Freshmen Philip Birgen and Serge Gasore placed third and ninth, respectively, in the college 5,000-meter run at the Tyson Invitational. Birgen improved a previous provisional qualifying time with a 14:39.65 performance, while Gasore posted a new provisional time of 14:48.71.
Two events stood out for the Wildcats competing in New Mexico: the women’s 4×400-meter relay team and Marvin Bien-Aime earned automatic bids to the NCAA Division II Indoor National Championships in Boston next month, joining automatic qualifiers Angie Aguilar in the pole vault and the women’s distance medley relay.
“I was really pleased with the effort we got and the results we got,” Hood said.
The women’s 4×400-meter relay team finished second in a field that included New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico State, Houston, and Brigham Young University, posting an automatic qualifying time of 3:45.03.
Bien-Aime, the lone automatic qualifier for the men’s team, won the men’s 200-meter dash in 21.27, an new indoor school record.
“Marvin Bien-Aime just keeps getting better every week,” Hood said. “He looked like he was just cruising.”
The other men’s qualifier was senior transfer Montez Pride, who was third in the 60-meter dash with a provisional qualifying time of 6.87 and fourth in the 200-meter dash with a provisional qualifying time of 21.72.
The men’s 4×400-meter relay team – comprised of Pride, Elton Garus-Oab, Jordan Johnson, and Delt Cockrell – which already has posted a strong provisional qualifying time, won the event Saturday with a time of 3:14.21.
But the women’s team has stood out above much of Division II track and field this season, and Saturday’s performance was no different. Freshman Kim Prather was a top performer for the Wildcats, finishing sixth in the 60-meter dash (7.60) and fifth in the 200-meter dash with a provisional qualifying time of 24.62.
Shawna-Kaye Thompson, who has already qualified provisionally in the 60-meter hurdles, qualified provisionally in the 60-meter dash with a provisional time of 7.76. Teammate Jessica Hunt also qualified provisionally with a seventh-place finish in the 200-meter dash (24.73).
The women’s middle-distance squad had a good showing Saturday. Vanessa Whittle and Denise Morgan went 1-2 in the 800-meter run, Whittle qualifying provisionally with a time of 2:17.03. Trina Cox won the women’s mile with an improved provisional time of 4:57.86, while teammate Olha Kryv’yak was second with a provisional time of 5:01.66. The milers’ times will be lowered even more, however, after they are adjusted for the altitude at Saturday’s meet.
Two women posted provisional marks in three more field events, as well. Freshman Jessica Withrow was fifth in the high jump with a height of 5-6 and tied for ninth in the long jump with a distance of 18-3 1/4, both provisional marks. Jessica Blair placed eighth in the triple jump with a provisional mark of 37-11 1/2, while junior Angie Aguilar tied for fourth in the pole vault by clearing a height of 12-6. Aguilar has already qualified automatically for the national meet in the pole vault and has the top height in Division II track and field.
Hood said he will take a small group of athletes to the Sooner Indoor Invitational in Norman, Okla., on Saturday with the hopes that the athletes who have yet to qualify or have weaker qualifying marks will post new ones or make improvements. The George Mason Invitational on Feb. 24 will mark the last chance for ACU athletes to qualify for the national meet, which will be held in Boston March 10-11.