NCAA Championships – West Preliminary
Mike A. Myers Stadium // Austin, Texas
|Sophomore Mitch Cooper was one of three KU throwers to advance to the NCAA Championships Thursday at the West Prelim.
AUSTIN, Texas – Kansas track & field got off to a solid start on the first day of action at the 2015 NCAA West Preliminary Thursday afternoon at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus. Four Jayhawks secured their spots at the NCAA Championships in their respective field events, while an additional five KU athletes extended their weekends in Austin by moving on to quarterfinal races on the track. Junior Daina Levy smashed her previous personal best in the hammer throw en route to turning in the top qualifying mark in the event. Junior Sydney Conley punched her ticket to her third NCAA Championships after she took third in the long jump.
Levy, who entered the day with the region’s fourth-ranked athlete in the hammer throw, left the rest of the competition in her wake on a humid afternoon in Austin. On her second trip into the throws cage, the junior unleashed a toss of 69.01 meters (226’5″) which surpassed her previous career best by nearly 10 feet. None of the other 47 in the event managed to come within six feet of Levy’s career throw, which earned her the top qualifying spot out of the West Region.
Levy’s throw was also just fractions of an inch shy of making school history, as the mark was just one centimeter shy of Alena Krechyk’s three-year-old school record in the event. The toss is the second-farthest be a collegian this year and ranks Levy among the top-40 in the world in 2014.
Her performance earned her a spot in the NCAA Championships for the first time in her collegiate career as she will have the opportunity to compete for a national title in the event in Eugene, Oregon on Thursday, June 11 at 3:30 p.m. (CT).
A pair of men’s throwers also earned passes to the NCAA Championships for the first time in their careers. Sophomore Mitch Cooper and freshman Cole Ceban each turned in top-eight finishes in the discus to punch their tickets to the national meet in two weeks. Cooper was the third overall qualifier after he turned in a top throw of 57.75 meters (189’5″). Ceban finished eighth overall with the help of his mark of 55.78 meters (183’0″).
The Kansas discus duo’s qualification marked the fourth time in the last five years at least one Jayhawk advanced to the NCAA Championships in the discus. Cooper and Ceban will hit the throws ring in Eugene on Friday, June 12 at 6:05 p.m. (CT).
Junior Sydney Conley made it look easy as she secured her spot at nationals in the long jump for the third time in as many tries. The All-American needed only two attempts to punch her finals ticket, soaring to a mark of 6.48 meters (21’3¼”) on her first leap of the day. After she was unable to improve on the mark on her second trip down the runway, with Conley in comfortable qualifying position, she passed on her third and final attempt.
Conley will now have the opportunity to earn All-America honors in the long jump for a fifth time at the national championship level. Her competition will begin at 7:15 p.m. (CT) on Thursday, June 11 in Eugene.
A handful of Jayhawks also managed to advance to the next round in their respective events on the track. Senior Michael Stigler began his march to a fourth-straight Nationals appearance in the 400-meter hurdles. He was the fastest qualifier out of the first round with his time of 49.72. The performance earned him a spot in the event quarterfinal to take place Friday at 7:45 p.m. in Austin.
Senior Josh Munsch also extended his weekend by moving on to the next round of the 1,500 meters. The Hays, Kansas native earned an automatic spot into Saturday’s quarterfinal after finishing third in his heat with a time of 3:48.87. Munsch will look to qualify for his second NCAA Championship meet when he takes the track for the quarterfinal set for Saturday at 6:45 p.m.
Others to extend their weekends in Austin included senior Kenneth McCuin in the 400 meters (22nd, 47.07), junior Hannah Richardson in the 1,500 meters (4th, 4:22.16) and sophomore Zainab Sanni in the 100 meters (17th, 11.41).
The Jayhawks will return to Mike A. Myers Stadium Friday for day two of the NCAA West Preliminary. Action will kick off for KU at 12 p.m., with juniorsDaina Levy, Anastasiya Muchkayev, Dasha Tsema throwing in the women’s discus. Freshman Jaron Hartley will close out the day on the track at 8:25 p.m., in the first round of the men’s 200 meters. For updates and results from the final two days of the West Prelim, log on to KUAthletics.com and follow on Twitter at @KUTrack.
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