Four More Cavaliers Advance to NCAA Finals
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. The Virginia track and field team advanced four more athletes to the finals of their respective events on Thursday evening, the second day of the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at McDonnell Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas, marking a school record for the number of NCAA finalists in a single season. Seniors Yemi Ayeni, Billie-Jo Grant, Caitlin Kelly and freshman Morgane Gay each advanced to the finals of their respective events, joining Meghan Briggs and Stephanie Garcia from yesterday’s competition.
Grant started the day tossing a season-best 175’ 10” on her first attempt in the discus, before opting to pass on her next two throws, and secured the second-best mark of the competition and a spot in Saturday’s finals.
Kelly will also join Grant in the finals, as she threw 167’ 4” on her first attempt, which ended up being the 10th-best throw of the day. The mark was good enough to advance her to the finals, where Louisville’s Jere’ Summers will be the top qualifier, holding a mark of 183’2”. The finals will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
In the men’s discus preliminaries, Ayeni threw a season-best 198’ 7” on his final throw to hit the automatic mark and pull into second place heading into the finals. Martin Maric from California was the top qualifier, throwing 201’ 10”. Finals are slated for Saturday at 11 a.m.
In the 1500m, Gay ran the second-fastest time in school history and finished fourth in 4:15.56 to advance to Saturday’s finals. Her finish marks the fastest a Cavalier has run since Michelle Rowen ran 4:15.37 in 1987 and became the 10th-fastest US Juniors national time ever for a female competitor under the age of 19. Heidi Dahl from East Tennessee State won the semifinals of the 1500m in 4:14.92 and will lead all competitors heading into Saturday’s finals scheduled for 2:09 p.m.
In other competition, senior Andrew Jesien and freshman Lance Roller saw their seasons come to an end.
Jesien, running the semis of the 1500m, finished 20th overall in 3:47.25 to miss qualifying for the finals. A year ago, the ACC Champion in the event became the first Cavalier to race in the NCAA finals of the 1500m since three-time All-American John Hinton did so in 1983. Jesien finishes his track career as a two-time all-region performer in the 1500m and a two-time All-ACC honoree in the event. He holds the third-fastest time in program history and he also broke the school record and earned All-America honors in the distance medley relay this indoor season.
Roller, running the 800m semifinals, finished 14th overall with a time of 1:48.31. Roller advanced to the semis after posting a personal-best time of 1:47.88 in yesterday’s first round of competition. He wraps up his inaugural season as a Cavalier as a three-time all-conference performer. The runner-up in the 800m at the ACC Championships led the league in the event all season. He was also a member of Virginia’s distance medley relay team that broke the school record and earned All-America honors this indoor season.
Two Cavaliers will return to action tomorrow, with Briggs and Garcia competing for All-America honors in their respective events. Briggs’ javelin competition starts at 6:30 p.m., while Garcia will race the 3000m steeplechase at 7:25 p.m.