Nine Cavaliers Set to Compete at NCAA Championships
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Virginia track and field team will send nine competitors to the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships to compete for a national championship this week. Preliminary and qualifying rounds will begin on Wednesday and Thursday with finals taking place on Friday and Saturday at John McDonnell Field at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. Live television coverage of the finals will begin on Friday at 7 p.m., on CBS College Sports and again on Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m. The NCAA will also provide live results and live video each day online and both can be found on VirginiaSports.com. All times included in this release are Eastern time.
Virginia’s nine competitors will be seniors Yemi Ayeni, Billie-Jo Grant and Caitlin Kelly in the discus, senior Andrew Jesien in the 1500m, junior Meghan Briggs in the javelin, juniors Steve Finley and Stephanie Garcia in the steeplechase, freshman Morgane Gay in the 1500m and freshman Lance Roller in the 800m.
Briggs will kick off competition for the Cavaliers, competing in the qualifying round of the javelin at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. This marks Briggs’ second-consecutive trip to the national meet, where she finished 25th a year ago. A two-time ACC Champion in the javelin, Briggs automatically advanced to NCAAs by finishing fifth at the NCAA East Region Championships, earning all-region honors. She was also the 2009 Penn Relays and the ECAC champion in the javelin. Briggs is currently ranked 12th nationally with her personal-best throw of 172’ 9”.
Roller will get events started on the track on Wednesday, racing the first round of the 800m at 6:45 p.m. Roller led the ACC in the 800m this season and earned all-conference honors with a runner-up finish at the ACC Championships. He also earned all-conference honors in the 4x400m relay. Roller finished fifth at regionals to garner an automatic spot for NCAAs and is ranked 11th nationally with his time of 1:48.34.
Garcia and Finley will also compete on Wednesday in the semifinals of the steeplechase. Garcia, making her second-consecutive trip to NCAAs, will race at 8:50 p.m., before Finley toes the line at 9:15 p.m.
Garcia is a three-time all-region performer in the steeplechase and automatically qualified for NCAAs by finishing fourth at regionals. She won her second-straight ECAC Championship this spring and was the 2008 ACC Champion in the steeple. She finished 24th at NCAAs as a freshman before improving upon that finish to 16th last year. Garcia is currently ranked 11th nationally with a personal-best time of 10:08.48.
Finley is making his inaugural appearance at the NCAA Championships after finishing as the runner-up at ACCs, the NCAA East Region Championships and IC4As. Finley’s runner-up finish at regionals earned him all-region honors and an automatic berth into nationals. He is currently ranked 11th nationally with a personal-best time of 8:43.76.
On Thursday, Grant and Kelly will kick off events, competing in the qualifying round of the discus at 11:30 a.m. Grant, a three-time All-American, is making her second-consecutive trip to NCAAs and fourth overall. She was the 2008 NCAA East Region Champion in the discus and earned an automatic berth into NCAAs by finishing fifth at regionals this season. Grant is a four-time All-East Region performer and earned All-ACC honors in the event four times. She is Virginia’s school record holder in the discus and is ranked 24th heading into this week’s competition, with a mark of 183’ 11”.
Kelly is having a standout season for the Cavaliers. The 2009 Penn Relays Champion in the discus earned an automatic slot into NCAAs by finishing runner-up at regionals, earning her first-ever all-region honor in the discus. She also finished runner-up at ACCs this year and won the ECAC Championship. She is currently ranked 16th nationally with a personal-best throw of 171’ 10”.
The men’s discus which will feature Ayeni – will follow the women’s competition, set to begin at 2 p.m. Ayeni is a two-time All-American and is currently undefeated in the event this season. Ayeni earned the men’s program its first-ever individual East Region title by winning the discus. He also won his third-straight ACC Championship and fourth IC4A title breaking the meet record. He defended his Penn Relays championship and is currently ranked fifth nationally with his season-best throw of 196’ 7”.
Gay earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships will make her first appearance on the track on Thursday, racing the semifinals of the 1500m at 8:55 p.m. The ACC Freshman of the Year earned all-conference and all-region honors in the 1500m. She is currently ranked 23rd nationally with a time of 4:21.61.
Jesien will wrap up Virginia’s competitors in the opening rounds, racing the 1500m semifinals at 9:10 p.m. Last season, Jesien became Virginia’s first competitor to advance to the finals of the 1500m since three-time All-American John Hinton did so in 1985. Jesien was the 2008 ACC Champion in the 1500m and has earned all-region honors the past two seasons. He currently ranks 14th nationally with his personal-best time of 3:41.89.
For those Cavaliers advancing to the finals of their respective events, competition will take place on Friday and Saturday.