The Big South Sends Two More to Nationals on Friday

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Jacob Smith Qualifies for NCAA Final
Junior Jacob Smith of the High Point University men's track & field team punched his ticket to the NCAA Final by finishing 12th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Friday at the NCAA Preliminary in Jacksonville, Fla. He is the program's first NCAA qualifier since 2005.
 
"This is a great accomplishment for Jacob and High Point University track & field," said HPU head coach Mike Esposito. "He responded to every move throughout the race and closed well. He moves on to Des Moines and he'll be running the Canadian Olympic Trials this summer, so he has quite a bit ahead of him. Dakota Peachee also ran really well in his heat of the steeplechase and Evan Emery competed well in the dash."
 
Smith ran a career-best and HPU-record time of 8:47.09 in the steeplechase, claiming the 16th and final qualifying spot for the NCAA Final. He placed fifth in his heat and was one of three time-based qualifiers. Of the 12 NCAA Final qualifiers, nine are seniors this season.
 
Smith's 8:47.09 significantly lowered the HPU record of 8:54.24 he set at the Big South Championship in 2011. His previous season best was 8:54.56, which he ran to win the Big South title.
 
In the first heat of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, junior Dakota Peachee ran a career-best 8:55.44 to place sixth in the heat and 20th overall. His previous best was 8:58.72 in 2010, which was the HPU record at the time. Peachee crushed his season best of 9:02.70 set three weeks ago at the Duke Twilight.
 
Earlier in the evening, sophomore Evan Emery ran in the second round of the 100-meter dash, placing 18th overall in a time of 10.43. He placed fifth in his heat, which was the only one that went into a slight head wind. Emery qualified for the Friday's race by placing 12th overall in the first round on Thursday with a time of 10.48.
 
Freshman Christian Spaulding placed 20th in the javelin with a throw of 63.62 meters (208-8) on Thursday. It was the second-best throw of his career. Spaulding's career-best 64.45 meters (211-5) was within reach of the 12th place finisher, who threw 66.64 meters (218-7).
 
"All four of these guys are going in the right direction and they're all back next year," said Esposito. "Within the next few years we have a chance to send 4-5 more people to the national meet."
 
The semifinals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase are Thursday, June 7 at 7:25 p.m. at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. If Smith advances through that round, he will run in the final on Saturday, June 9 at 11:52 a.m.
 
Smith is also competing in the Canadian Track & Field Trials in Calgary, Alberta, June 27-30. Spaulding is moving on to the U.S. Junior National Championship and will compete in that meet June 15-17 in Bloomington, Ind.Sears Places 25th at NCAA East Preliminary
Jacksonville, Fla. - Sophomore Carson Sears competed in his first ever NCAA Preliminary, posting the 25th best distance by throwing 58.74 m in the Hammer Throw.
 
Sears (Suwanee, Ga.) was the only Runnin' Bulldog to compete at the NCAA East Preliminary.
 
The top 16 throws in the preliminary round advanced to the finals of the event.
 
Sears' performance among the nation's best caps off an Outdoor season in which he set two school records (hammer throw, 64.48 m; shot put, 16.35 m) and earned his first career Conference championship (hammer throw, 61.24 m) at 2012 Big South Championships.

Kitur Advances to NCAA Championships, Sing's Run Ends in Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - VMI's Felix Kitur used a strong finishing kick over the final 150 meters to win his quarterfinal race in the 800-meters at the NCAA East Preliminary Round, contested Friday night at North Florida's Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. With the win, Kitur advances to the main portion of the NCAA Championships, which will take place June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Kitur clocked in at 1:47.96 to win a heat for the second straight night, and sixth time in eight career races at this event. He has now qualified for his fourth career appearance at the main portion of the NCAA Championships, and his Friday effort marked a seasonal best.

The race got off to a quick start, with Kitur sitting in fourth after the opening 200-meters. Lance Roller of Virginia, who entered with the second-fastest time in the region, went to the front with a 25.67 split, and Kitur trailed in 25.98 through the first 200-meters. The VMI standout continued to run fourth after the next 200-meters, as his opening 400 was completed in 52.72 seconds.

Shortly after crossing the line, Kitur made a move towards the front at approximately the 500-meter mark, as he surged by Dante Holmes (Delaware State) and Brendon Fish (Binghamton) to go into second place. His 27.53 third split was the second-quickest of any runners, and he continued to run second coming into the final 200-meters.

Coming around the final curve, Kitur made a power move to the outside and passed Roller, going to the front and taking the win and first automatic qualifying berth. After his 27.72 second closing 200, Kitur was the only runner in his heat to complete each 200-meters in under 28 seconds. He defeated two runners, Roller and David Mokone (Western Kentucky), who entered the meet seeded above him.

In addition, Jennifer Sing's historic career came to an end, as she cleared only the opening height of 3.65 meters (11'11 ¾") in the women's pole vault. The clearance gave Sing a tie for 35th-place, as ties were not broken unless needed to determine qualifiers.

Sing ends her career with three straight All-Big South honors, school records in both the indoor and outdoor versions of her discipline, seven straight seasons that saw an improved personal best and two scoring efforts at the ECAC Championships, performances that made her the first Keydet woman to ever achieve that feat. She was also the first VMI woman to clear both the 12 foot mark and the 13 foot mark.

"Today was a special day for our program," said VMI head coach Darrin Webb. "Felix made his fourth NCAA Championship, with a seasonal best effort, and ran two very good races to win against some of the best 800-meter runners in America. He is peaking at the right time, and I am excited for him and the opportunity he will have in Des Moines. Today was also the final day of Jennifer Sing's outstanding career. During her career, she improved more than virtually any other athlete I have ever been around. Over her four years, she improved more than six feet in the pole vault, which is amazing. It was a pleasure to work with this class, but these two were among the best. I am excited for them both as we go forward."

VMI track and field returns to action June 6-9, when Kitur runs the 800-meters at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

Ristic Advances in High Hurdles at NCAA Premlinary Round
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Sophomore sprinter Milan Ristic qualified for the quarterfinals of the 110 Hurdles at the East preliminaries of the NCAA Track and Field championships Friday afternoon at the University of North Florida.

Ristic ran in Heat 5 and finished in third place with a time of 13.91. There are six heats with the top three in each heat qualifying for Saturday's quarterfinal round. Saturday's races will start at 7 p.m.

Peake Advances in 200m; Gabe Sets High Jump Record at NCAA East Preliminary
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Three Coastal Carolina women competed during the second day of the 2012 NCAA East Preliminary Round on Friday in Jacksonville, Fla.

Junior Erica Peake advanced to Saturday's 200m quarterfinal after placing 14th overall in the first round. Peake, the 2012 Big South Most Outstanding Women's Track Athlete, crossed the finish line in 23.58 to place fourth in the fourth of six heats. The time is a career-best for the Spartanburg, S.C., native and the second quickest by a Big South student-athlete this season. Peake will be joined in Saturday's quarterfinal by the top three heat finishers and the next eight fastest individuals. She can punch her ticket to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, with a top-12 quarterfinal showing.

Mary Lawrence opened the Chanticleers' day with a 38th-place finish in the pole vault. The senior finished with a cleared height of 3.65m (11-11.75). She cleared the height, which was the meet's opening mark, on her second attempt of the afternoon. She would foul on each of her three attempts at 3.80m (12-05.50).

Lawrence, a Bethlehem, Pa., product, concludes her collegiate career ranked second on the CCU all-time list with a career-best vault of 3.85m (12-07.50).

Kierra Gabe narrowly missed advancing to the NCAA Championships as she placed 16th in the high jump. However, the senior from Adams Run, N.C., made her final mark on the CCU record book as she cleared a school-record height of 1.77m (5-09.75). Gabe cleared heights of 1.67m (5-05.75) and 1.72m (5-07.75) on her second attempts prior to clearing her record-setting height.  She would be unsuccessful at 1.81m (5-11.25), relegating her to 16th-place based on total attempts.

The Chanticleers will be represented in the NCAA East Preliminary Round on Saturday by Shantelle Patterson (hammer throw, 2 p.m.) and Peake (200m quarterfinal, 7:50 p.m.).

Cumings Takes 29th in Preliminary Round Discus
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Liberty freshman Mychelle Cumings took 29th place in the women's discus, making her the Flames' top performer on Friday at the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet at UNF's Hodges Stadium.

Cumings' third discus throw reached 147-11. That put her in 29th place of 48 entrants and ended her successful NCAA rookie season. However, she is still slated to throw the shot put and discus at the USATF Junior National Championships, June 15-17 in Bloomington, Ind.

Mia Aghaji cleared the first two heights in the women's high jump, topping out at 5-7.75 to tie for 30th place. She will compete again on Saturday, when the redshirt senior triple jumps at 4:30 p.m.

Making his NCAA Preliminary Round debut, sophomore Josh MacDonald came in 12th in his heat and 39th overall in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase under the lights, late Friday evening. His official time was 9:15.41.

Ryan Smith stretched the measuring tape to 179-6 on his second attempt in the men's hammer, earning a 40th-place finish in the event. Smith will make it three throwing events in three days, when he contests the men's shot put Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m.

Liberty will have five athletes in action on Saturday, the final day of the NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet. The Flames' day will begin at 11 a.m., when Kolby Shepherd attempts to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the men's pole vault for the second straight year.

Houston Earns Spot in 200m Quarterfinals at NCAA Preliminaries
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Gabrielle Houston made it two in a row, qualifying for the quarterfinals of the 200-meter dash on Friday evening at the 2012 NCAA East Preliminaries at Hodges Stadium Track & Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

Houston took second place in her heat, running a 23.57 to finish 13th overall. She will compete in the quarterfinals of the event on Saturday evening at 7:50 p.m. Earlier in the evening, Houston competed in the quarterfinals of the 100-meter dash, where she took 19th overall in a time of 11.59.

"I feel that I had a great run tonight, but I know I have better in me," says Houston. "Hopefully some prayers and ice baths will do the trick."

Freshman Mulern Jean made her NCAA debut in the 100-meter hurdles. She ran a time of 13.96 to finish eighth in her heat and 45th overall.