MSU - Watt, Schulist & Wiersma Punch Tickets To NCAA Track & Field Finals In Eugene

MSU - Watt, Schulist & Wiersma Punch Tickets To NCAA Track & Field Finals In Eugene

Provided by MSU

JACKSONSVILLE, Fla. – A trio of Spartans punched tickets to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon, on the opening day of the NCAA East Preliminary Round at Hodges Stadium on the campus of North Florida on Thursday, May 26.

“Most of what I saw today was indicative of what I have seen all year,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Walt Drenth. “We had athletes rise to the top and do what they needed to do to advance. We have a lot to look forward to, and it is always good to have people make the finals in Eugene.”

A pair of Spartans clinched spots at the NCAA finals in the women’s 10,000 meters. Junior Alexis Wiersma led the way for MSU with a fifth-place effort, clocking a 34:24.49. Senior Rachele Schulist spent much of the race among the field’s top five, but faded back into 10th with a time of 34:32.73. Junior Shelby Jackson ended the race in 20th with a 35:12.98.

“The pace got a little slow and Rachele felt more comfortable up near the front with less people,” said Drenth. “I do wish she would have been a little more patient, but it is remarkable that she had a stress fracture in the fall and didn’t really get her feet on the ground until February. To make the finals in Eugene is a testament to her will. Ally (Alexis Wiersma) learned a lot from last year. She knew how to be patient and apply pressure to the run late.”

Senior Cynthia Watt was the first Spartan to punch her ticket to Eugene, taking eighth in the women’s hammer. Watt’s long of the day was recorded at 59.44m. She took sixth in the third flight, which made up 10 of the 12 finalists.

“Cynthia is an elite hammer thrower,” Drenth said. “Coach (Blaine) Maag has said she has been training very well and it has been showing. She has been building, and when she releases the hammer you can see that it is going to go far.”

Senior David Washington made it out of the first round of the 400-meter hurdles, taking third in the sixth heat with a time of 51.99. Washington’s time was the 21st fastest out of the opening round. He will race next on Friday at approximately 7:45 p.m.

“David has the ability to advance,” said Drenth. “It’ll be interesting to see what lane he draws. If he stays aggressive and trusts himself down the final four hurdles, he has the ability to advance. He is sensing what he is capable of.”

Junior Aubrey Wilberding used a late kick in the 800 meters to advance to Friday’s quarterfinal of the 800 meters. Wilberding trailed the lead pack of three heading into the final turn, but kicked down the stretch to clock a career-best 2:04.96. She turned in the fourth-best time of the afternoon.

“Coach (Lisa) Senakiewich and I have seen her training and believe she is a 2:02 or better 800-meter runner. She was athletic today, and if she does the same thing tomorrow she can advance and go to Eugene. We are excited to get her there, and she is fit to do it.”

In the men’s 1,500 meters, freshman Justine Kiprotich started the race in the back of the pack before working his way into contention to move on to the quarterfinals. Running in the middle of the pack come the bell lap, Kiprotich faded out of the final turn to take 10th in the opening heat with a 3:47.43. He clocked the day’s 22nd fastest time.

“We saw a little bit of growing pains from Justine,” said Drenth. “He could be a little tired. He is really gifted, and he will come back from this and have the chance to be really special.”

Senior Janae Hill took seventh in heat six, 35th overall, of the women’s 100-meter dash. Hill crossed the line in 11.80.

Sophomore Jade Madison closed out the opening flight of the women’s javelin with a mark of 38.35m. The distance was good for 14th in the flight and 44th overall.

In the men’s hammer, senior Connor Kostrzewa took 10th in the second flight, 27th overall, with a heave of 62.04m. Kostrzewa entered the weekend seeded No. 27 with a mark of 65.03m.

Sophomore Noah Gary tied for 17th in the pole vault, clearing 5.15m. Gary sailed over the height on his second attempt before being knocked out at 5.25m.

In the day’s final race, senior Caleb Rhynard and junior Clark Ruiz finished 22nd and 36th in the 10,000 meters, respectively. The duo ran close together through the first third of the race and worked their way to the upper half of the pack before Rhynard regained contact with the lead group. He crossed the line in 30:28.77, while Ruiz clocked a 31:06.94.

“Clark just ran out of gas,” Drenth said. “He has had two good 10,000-meter races and was outstanding at the conference meet. I was disappointed for Caleb because the pace was not honest. He is not a front running guy, so it had to be honest from the start for him. I felt that he raced though and gave it all he had.”

Competition on day two starts at noon with the women’s discus and men’s javelin. Running commences at 5 p.m. in the first round of the women’s 100 hurdles.

The preliminary competitions are scheduled for May 26-28. The University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida, hosts the east region and the west region is at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. The qualifiers out of these regions compete in the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championships held June 8-11 in Eugene, Oregon.