UTEP Advances Four to NCAA Finals on Day One of NCAA Midwest Regional
May 30, 2008
The UTEP track and field teams advanced four individuals to the NCAA Finals on day one of the NCAA Midwest Regional on Friday in Lincoln, Neb.
Mickael Hanany (high jump), Blessing Okagbare (long jump), Nina Schvedoff (hammer) and Alex van der Merwe (javelin) all punched their tickets to the national meet, scheduled for June 11-14 in Des Moines, Iowa.
"I think it was a pretty good day overall," UTEP coach Bob Kitchens said. "Hopefully tomorrow we can get everyone else going and end up with the same number of people [at nationals] that we thought would get there."
Hanany was second in the high jump with a clearance of 2.25m (7-4 1/2) behind Nebraska's Dusty Jonas (2.31m/7-7). Okagbare was first in the long jump with a Midwest Regional record leap of 6.53m (21-5 1/4). Schvedoff took third in the hammer with a heave of 60.35m (198-0). Van der Merwe was runner-up in the javelin with a mark of 69.92m (229-5) behind Texas Tech's Mike Cast (70.27m/230-6).
Hanany, who redshirted outdoors a year ago, returns to the NCAA Finals after competing in the high jump in 2004, 2005 and 2006. His top finish was second in the event in 2005. Okagbare will be making her first NCAA appearance, Schvedoff her second (and first since 2005), and van der Merwe his third.
The Miners also advanced three individuals and the women's 4x100 meter relay out of Friday's preliminaries and into Saturday's finals.
The women's 4x100 unit of Quashanda Welch, Halimat Ismaila, Shalaiyah Sommerville and Okagbare posted the best time in its heat and the third-best time of Friday's prelims, clocking in at 44.21 seconds. That time fell just a fraction short of the school record of 44.20 seconds, set in 1996 and duplicated earlier this year.
UTEP's Elias Koech, Dominic Tanui and Aggrey Chirchir all reached Saturday's 800 meter final. Koech and Tanui both had the fastest times in their heat at 1:49.85 and 1:50.99, respectively. Chirchir was third in his heat with a performance of 1:50.34. Overall Koech had the third-fastest time of the prelims, while Chirchir was fifth and Tanui was seventh. The top eight individuals move on to the final.
Also competing for UTEP in Saturday's finals will be Hans Eriksson and Dimitrios Fylladitakis in the men's hammer throw, Okagbare and Nelly Tchayem in the women's triple jump, Kelly Young in the women's 1,500 meters, Keisha Walkes in the women's shot put, Patrick Mutai in the men's 3,000 meter steeplechase and the men's 4x400 meter relay.
The biggest surprise on Friday was Ismaila falling short of qualifying for the 100 meter finals despite entering the meet with the nation's eighth-fastest time in the event. Ismaila finished the race in 11.61 seconds, the third-fastest time in her heat but 12th overall. Ismaila's time may still be good enough to earn an at-large invitation to the NCAA Finals, depending on how it stacks up with other regional performances across the country.
UTEP's Anderson Mutegi (men's 200 meters), Sommerville (women's 200 meters), Walkes (discus) and Welch (women's 100 hurdles) were also grounded in Friday's prelims. Mutegi ran 20.92 seconds, third in his heat and ninth overall. He was two hundredths of a second shy of qualifying for the final. Sommerville ran 24.26 seconds, fourth in her heat and 18th overall. Walkes threw 46.39m (152-2), 17th overall. And Welch ran 14.01 seconds to place fifth in her heat and 16th overall.