STANFORD, Calif. — Sixteen Cougars qualified for the NCAA National Championships on Saturday at the West Regional in Stanford, Calif., and will join nearly 1,100 other athletes at the National Championships in Sacramento on June 11-14.
The BYU men finished fifth in the team competition. In women's action, the Cougars finished with an impressive seventh-place effort, ahead of the MWC Outdoor Champion, San Diego State, and Pac-10 foes Washington, California and Arizona.
"We were very pleased with how things turned out," head women's coach Craig Poole said. "We had some personal records and qualified six more athletes for nationals. We're very pleased." Provo's Kassi Andersen finished second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in a time of 9:48.57 which not only marked the second fastest time in BYU history, but also ranked as the second fastest American time this season.
"Kassi had an outstanding race," Poole said. "The winner, Lisa Aguilera, is a very talented runner and Kassi stayed right with her. Kassi is just going to get better and better." The women's 4x400-meter relay team came up a bit short with a seventh-place finish. However, the time turned in by Mary Bennion, Anita Nygard, Jennifer Rockwell and Aneta Lemiesz (3:39.64) ranks second in the BYU history books, missing the school's all-time best mark by just over two-tenths of a second.
Junior Aneta Lemiesz turned in a personal best to finish second in the 800-meters. Lemiesz, a native of Poland, finished the distance in a time of 2:05.30 to advance to the national championships.
Other qualifiers include Lisa Antonelli in the steeplechase, Jaime Cottle in the 1,500 meters, Lindsey Metcalf in the high jump and Missy Wood in the javelin.
Entering the final event of this weekend's competition, the 4x400-meter relay, the BYU men were tied with Oregon for third place, followed closely by Stanford. The foursome of Matt Rowe, Matt Nielsen, David Chesser and Greg Flint finished fifth in the race behind both Oregon and Stanford to finish the overall competition in fifth place. UCLA won the competition with 101 points, followed by USC with 92 points. Oregon held on to third place with 71 points and Stanford finished fourth with 69 points.
When the dust settled, the BYU men had qualified 10 additional athletes, joining the two others who will likely receive at-large invitations based upon top performances earlier this season.
Freshman Robison Pratt broke the BYU record in the pole vault with a mark of 18-03. Pratt won the event and will challenge for the national pole vaulting title in Sacramento.
Sophomore Matt Adams earned one of five spots to the National Championships in the 3,000-meter steeplechase after turning in a life-time best (8:47.75) to finish third in the event.
Nathan Robison, the son of head coach Mark Robison, finished third in the 1,500 meters with a time of 3:46.41, and will represent BYU at the National Championships. He is likely to be joined by teammate Kip Kangogo in Sacramento, however Kangogo, who has the fastest time in the country, will have to await an at-large selection after failing to qualify at the regional meet. Kangogo finished 14th in the preliminaries on Friday.
The 4x100-meter relay team will also compete in Sacramento after finishing second at the West Regional. The foursome of Cody Fonnesbeck, Nate Soelberg, Nielsen and Paul Smith registered a 40.26 to outdistance the likes of Cal State Fullerton, Cal, Stanford, Fresno State and Oregon.
Nielsen and Smith later battled for the final position in the 200-meters, with Nielsen edging Smith at the finish line to finish fifth in the event.
Senior Aron Szmuda qualified for Nationals on Friday in the long jump, but came up short in the triple jump after finishing sixth in the event on Saturday.
Junior Chad Simkins posted a time of 1:50.52 in the 800 meters and will advance to Sacramento after finishing third in the event.
The Cougars will return to Provo for a week of practice before heading to Sacramento on Wednesday, June 11 through Saturday, June 14 for the NCAA National Championships.
WEBER STATE: Weber State's Joel Atwater, the four time Big Sky Conference Outdoor 1,500 meters champion, placed second in that event at the regional and will now advance to the 2003 NCAA Division I Men's Outdoor Track and Field Championship at Sacramento State in two weeks.
UTAH STATE: Utah State javelin thrower Neil Warr joined teammate Mark Bruhn to automatically qualify for the NCAA Track and Field Championships as he finished third in the javelin at the NCAA Regional.