NCAA West Regional Track And Field Championships Preview
May 23, 2005
FRESNO, Calif.- Nine men and nine women have automatically qualified to compete in this weekend's NCAA West Regional Track and Field Championships, which get underway Friday, May 27, in Eugene, Ore.
The top five finishers from each regional individual event (and top three in each relay) automatically advance to the NCAA Championships, Wed.-Sat., June 8-11 in Sacramento, Calif. The following Monday, another 5-8 athletes per event that finished sixth, seventh or eighth in their regionals will also be selected by the NCAA championships committee via an at-large method based on season-bests.
Senior sprinter Chris Berrian would rather not think about how his season ended at NCAA Regionals last year. Berrian was the only Bulldog to advance out of the opening day prelims, only to be edged out in the 200-meter finals the following day. How close was Berrian to an NCAA Championships berth last year? He crossed the line in fifth place at 21.17 while Cal Poly's Paul Edwards ran a 21.14 to move on.
If Berrian performs this weekend like he has throughout the year, he should be punching his ticket to Sacramento. Berrian, who will be competing in three events this weekend (100-meters, 200-meters, 4x100-meter relay), won WAC titles in the 100- and 200-meters and was named this year's Cal-Nevada Championships Outstanding Track Performer. His best effort of the year occurred during a five-way meet in San Luis Obispo, when he ran a 10.27 to win the 100-meters and a blistering 20.47 to claim the 200-meters. At the start of the week, his wind-aided time of 20.47 would rank second in the region and eighth nationally.
Sophomore Ryan Moore got a taste of NCAA Regional action last year and finds himself back for an encore in the 400-meter hurdles. Moore- a WAC titlist this year- placed 19th in the NCAA Regional prelims last year, running a 53.72. At the Brutus Hamilton Invitational in early April, Moore established a personal-best when he clocked in at 51.30.
After not sending a relay team to NCAA Regionals last year, the Bulldogs bring two this year. The 4x100-meter squad of freshman Kenny Moon, junior Jesse Smith, Berrian and junior Rico Morales is in with a time of 40.41, while the 4x400-meter team of Morales, freshman Juan Valdez, Moon and Moore has qualified with a time of 3:09.97.
Five WAC titles. A personal-best vault of 17-6.50 (5.35m) at the Mt. SAC Relays. Senior Russell Weaver enters his final collegiate competition with some exceptional credentials. However, this year represents Weaver's third straight NCAA Regional appearance and he has yet to advance to the NCAA Championships.
This could be Weaver's best chance, as he has led the Bulldogs and the WAC in the pole vault virtually all season. Weaver's most recent tune-up occurred two weeks ago when he reached 16-6 (5.03m) to help Fresno State earn a runner-up finish at the WAC Outdoor Championships. At the 2004 Regionals, he lost a jump-off but managed to make 17-3 (5.26) and finish in a tie for fifth.
After a full week of rest and his third straight outdoor WAC title in hand, Weaver appears ready to make some noise this weekend in Eugene.
Senior Leif McMurry is the other Bulldog vaulter in the NCAA Regional field. Back on Apr. 30 in San Luis Obispo, McMurry reached a career-best 17-6.75 (5.05m) to place second overall. He was fifth at the WAC Championships with a mark of 15-1 (4.60m).
Sophomore Dave Endler has been Fresno State's best thrower all season, consistently racking up top-five finishes while also improving on his personal marks. Endler will be competing in the discus, an event in which he led Fresno State with a career-best 176-2 (53.69m) at the Modesto Relays on May 7.
So what if eight of the nine student-athletes on the women's side are field event competitors? Depending who you ask, people in the know will tell you that Andrea Buckner is a consensus sleeper pick to advance to the next round in Sacramento.
Buckner will be looking to follow the lead of former steeplechase standout Kara June, who was one of three Bulldogs to compete at the 2004 NCAA Championships after being granted an at-large bid.
Buckner, who also leads the `Dogs in the 5,000-meter run, only needs to continue her late-season success as she attempts to lock up an NCAA Championship spot. She established a personal-best in her last time out on the track, running a 10:30.89 to win the steeplechase at the WAC Championships.
A key point-scorer and one of the Bulldog's most consistent weapons on the women's side, Buckner also was the steeplechase champion at the Cal-Nevada Championships. She also logged first-place finishes at the Cal Poly Invitational, five-way meet at Cal Poly and in a tri-meet with Cal State Bakersfield and Mt. San Antonio College.
If anything else, Buckner already has postseason experience on her side this year. Back in November, Buckner qualified for NCAA Regional competition in cross country.
Two senior pole vaulters- one of whom has reached 13 feet- are in the mix. Two newcomers on the Bulldog roster are making their NCAA Regional debut. Junior La'Sha Hill has qualified for NCAA Regionals every year she has put on a Bulldog uniform. Did we mention the only All-American on the Bulldog roster is a field event competitor?
The correct word is here is depth, as eight of the nine individuals who will compete this weekend are field event specialists.
Sophomore Mallory Webb, whose postseason surge one year ago resulted in her becoming Fresno State's first All-American on the women's side since 1999, will be looking to duplicate her 2004 success. Webb has either equaled or bettered the NCAA Regional qualifying standard in the javelin in every outdoor meet this year. A four-time first-place finisher in 2005, Webb is coming off a fourth-place finish at the WAC Championships and enters the weekend with a season-high distance of 160-4 (48.88m).
Seniors Lexine Lesser and Annie Malaythong have spearheaded Fresno State's pole vaulting corps for the past three seasons. They'll look to close out successful collegiate careers this weekend when they appear in NCAA Regional competition for the third consecutive year. Lesser won the WAC title with a personal-best mark of 13-1.50 (4.00m), becoming only the second athlete in school history to reach 13 feet. Malaythong, out due to injury earlier in the year, reached 12-5.50 (3.80m) at the Mt. SAC Relays and she has the ability to hit 13-0 as well.
A gold medal in the pentathlon at this year's WAC Championships would suffice for some athletes, but senior Katie Christianson is looking for more in her first NCAA Regional appearance. Christianson's measure of 19-7.25 (5.98m) in the long jump gets her to Eugene. She also leads the `Dogs in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.19.
La'Sha Hill, a multiple-event NCAA Regional competitor in 2004, is back again. This time she's looking to move on in the discus, as she produced a career-best mark of 158-2 (48.21m) back on Apr. 15 at the Mt. SAC Relays. Sophomore Katie Richardson will also be competing in the discus. Richardson's impressive freshman year included a mark of 165-8 (50.50m) in the discus, although this year she has topped out at 156-4 (47.67m). Nevertheless, both Hill and Richardson are more than capable of making a run.
Junior transfers Aspen Marshall and Regina Ollison also get one more chance to extend their seasons. Marshall threw a season-high 47-11.25 (14.61m) to qualify, while Ollison leaped 40-10.25 (12.45m) in the triple jump to advance.
Check back to www.gobulldogs.com later this weekend for daily updates of the 2005 NCAA West Regional.