MSU - O'Connor, Daniels and James Advance To NCAA Championships
Provided by MSU
JACKSONVILLE, Florida - Senior Leah O'Connor set a school record in the 3,000m steeplechase for the Michigan State track & field program on Friday night at the 2015 NCAA East Preliminary Round at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. O'Connor was one of three Spartans to advance to the NCAA Championships, as the standout distance runner was joined by a pair of teammates in the throwing events, in freshman Katelyn Daniels and senior Antonio James, both in the discus.
Friday's Results/Live Results
O'Connor had the fastest time of the day at the East Preliminary, breaking her own school record with a time of 9:35.33. Her previous record of 9:36.43 was set when she won the NCAA title last year. This is the fourth-straight year that she has advanced to the NCAA Championships.
"Leah is a national champion so I expect something like that out of her, but to do it solo and set a school record under these conditions, I was really pleased" said Spartan director of track & field Walt Drenth. "This was only her third steeple of the year. There is quite a bit more in her, I believe."
In the women's discus, top-seeded and Big Ten Champion Daniels continued her strong showing after the B1G Championsips. After a slow start, the freshman rebounded nicely on her second throw with a mark of 57.30m which vaulted her into the lead. With a strong Michigan State contingent in the stands, Daniels' 57.30m was enough to remain in first. Her throw was the third-best in the country during preliminary action, as the West was led by Texas A&M's Shelbi Vaughan, who threw 60.93m, and a 59.91m by Wisconsin's Kelsey Card, who was second at the B1G Championships behind Daniels.
James qualified for the NCAAs in the first of two events, finishing sixth in the discus with a toss of 58.89m on his second attempt. He will be in Eugene in the discus for the fourth-straight season. James' 58.89m throw was the seventh-best during the preliminary rounds, as Kole Weldon from Texas Tech led the West Preliminary round with a throw of 59.78. James will try to punch his ticket to Eugene in the shot put on Saturday at 5 p.m.
"They are both good. On Katelyn's first throw she didn't look like discus thrower; she looked like another event. To keep her composure and comeback and in her second throw to throw the bomb that she did that is a hard thing to do, especially for a freshman," Drenth said. "A.J. (Antonio James) was calm and did what he needed to do. That was sort of indicative of our day today. The people that followed the plan and listen to their coach had a great day."
Jellisa Westney advanced to the quarterfinals of the 200m dash by finishing third in the fourth heat and 19th overall with a time of 23.62. The 200m was the senior's second race of the day, as she ran in the 100m quarterfinals earlier in the day, missing out on advancing to nationals. Westney will run in the 200m quarterfinals scheduled for Saturday at 7:35 p.m. (ET). Senior Alicia Evans did not qualify for the 200m quarterfinals after finishing 28th with a time of 23.86.
"I thought that she did a nice job coming back from in the preliminary after a disappointing second race in the 100m. I thought that she had a good chance to get through, but her nerves got the better of her. First time that you get here, sometimes you do that. I liked the fact that she was able to regroup. Coach (Vanitta) Kinard did a nice job of settled her down," Drenth said.
Sophomore Max Benoit also set a MSU record in the 3,000m steeplechase with a time of 8:44.46 to finish 14th, just missing out on advancing. Junior Chris Collier finished 20th with a personal-best time of 8:51.50.
Also competing Thursday for the Spartans but not advancing to the NCAA Championships was senior Lauren Rose who finished 27th in the 100m hurdles. Westney finished 23rd in the quarterfinals of the 100m with a time of 11.82.
Junior Tim Canfield did not record a height in the pole vault after three attempts at 5.00m.
Action at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds will conclude on Saturday, May 30. The Spartans have 12 entries in action Saturday, including Big Ten Champion Cynthia Watt in the women's hammer throw. Field events will begin at 1:30 p.m., while track events will commence at 6 p.m.
Fans can follow the action with live results at: on.ncaa.com/1HQYuWj.
The qualifiers out of the East and West Regions will compete in the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championships held June 10-13 in Eugene, Oregon. For each individual event contested at each of the Preliminary sites, the top 48 declared student-athletes will be accepted into the competition. For each relay event, the top 24 declared relay teams will be accepted into the competition. Combined events (Heptathlon and Decathlon), are not contested at the Preliminary sites.
Michigan State East Preliminary Qualifiers
Name Event Mark/Time
Sarah Birkmeier Pole Vault 4.18m
Katelyn Daniels Discus 57.87m
Leah O'Connor 3,000m Steeple 3:35.33
Jellisa Westney 200m 23.62 (Advances to QF on Saturday, May 30)
Name Event Mark/Time
Vinny Gjokaj Hammer Throw 64.37m
Antonio James Discus 58.89m