Aggies Send 15 to West Preliminary Rounds

Kellie Grigg will race in the 400 hurdles at the NCAA West Preliminary Round

May 22, 2013

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AUSTIN, Texas- Thirteen UC Davis women and two Aggie men will continue their track and field seasons against some of the nation's best athletes when they open competition on Thursday at the NCAA Div. I West Preliminary Round at the University of Texas.

The Aggies women, coming off their second consecutive Big West championship two weeks ago at Cal State Northridge, will have six women racing during Thursday's action at Mike A. Myers Stadium.

The regional serves as the opening rounds of the NCAA Championships which will continue with the national finals on June 5-8 at the University of Oregon. The top 48 athletes in each event earn berths to the preliminary round while the top 24 relays teams also qualify. The top 12 finishers in each event will move on to Eugene, Ore.

The Aggies have at least 14 competitors at the meet for the fifth time in six Div. I seasons. Last season, they advanced seven men and seven women to the regional which was also held at the University of Texas. Sarah Sumpter, who went on to All-America honors in the 10,000-meter run, advanced to the national finals from the meet while former Aggie Ashley Hearn did so as well, eventually earning All-America accolades as well.

Aggie coach Drew Wartenburg, named the Big West Coach of the Year for the second straight season, is confident with the team he is taking to the preliminary rounds.

"We feel very good about the group that we have in Austin for the West Regional meet this year," he said. "Recovery and continued preparation coming off the conference championship have both gone well, and all has gone smoothly along the way to what we view as the second phase of postseason competition.

"Our contingent is led by a strong veteran core, and on the women's side features athletes in 11 individual events and the 4x400 relay, marking the first time that we have advanced a relay team to this meet."

Sprinters Ashley Marshall, the Big West Women's Track Athlete of the Year after winning both the 100 and 200 in school-record fashion, will race in the 100's first round on Thursday. She'll be joined by 2012 Big West champion Melanise Chapman. They'll race beginning at 4:30 p.m. PT.

Raquel Lambdin, Big West champion in the 1,500, will race in the first round of the event at 3:30, looking to qualify for Saturday's quarterfinal round. Kayla Carter and Kellie Grigg (both 400 hurdles), Cekarri Nixon (400), Lauren Wallace and Shanie Landen (both 800) and Sumpter (10K) also have races scheduled for Thursday.

Wallace enters with the highest regional ranking. Her school-record time of 2 minutes, 3.90 seconds while winning the Big West is second-best in the West. Two-time conference champion Sarah Sumpteris eighth in the 10,000.

Carter will continue competition on Friday afternoon with the first round of the 100 hurdles while Katie Fry, Big West titlist in the steeplechase, will race in the evening. Marshall opens in the 200 as well. Quarterfinal rounds in the 100, 400 and 800 will also be contested along with the next round of the 400 hurdles. Emily Bush will compete in the first round of the pole vault on Friday afternoon as well.

Alycia Cridebring, who set a conference and school record in the 5,000 (15:49.05) at Stanford's Payton Jordan Invitational this season, will race in the national semifinal on Saturday evening. Big West competitor Laura Hollander, who had the conference record until Cridebring broke it, is also entered in the 5K, setting up an exciting conference matchup.

Next rounds in the 200, 1,500, and 100 hurdles are also scheduled for Saturday while the Aggies' school-record 4x400 relay will conclude the meet in the evening. Senior Tonie Williamswill race in that event only.

Standout pole vaulters Ethan Ostromand Mike Peterson will represent the Aggie men's teams. Ostrom is ranked 26th in the region at 17 feet, 3.5 inches while Peterson advanced after clearing 16-10.75. Ostrom is the school-record holder at 17-6.50 which he set at last year's regional.

Wartenburg said the growth of the Aggies' program during its Div. I era has made the regional meet a rule rather than an exception for much of the team. He said the goals have moved to try and qualify as many individuals as possible in order to provide a solid presence at the NCAA Finals.

"In the fourth year of the current postseason format, our program has evolved to the point that the regional round represents an anticipated meet on the schedule for our top athletes," he said. "There are a number whose sights should be set on competing well here in order to earn berths to the national championship in Eugene in two weeks.

"We are looking closely at the opening rounds, as well as the semifinals-only events, to plot the best course for chances at moving on in each event."