EUGENE, Ore. - Senior Lauren Wallace and sophomores Ashley Marshall and Katie Fry will take center stage on collegiate track and field's biggest stage in perhaps its most famous venue when the UC Davis women's track and field members compete in the NCAA Division I Championships which begin Wednesday at Historic Hayward Field.
All three Aggies are making their first appearances at the national championships after qualifying at the NCAA West Prelim Meet at the University of Texas on May 23-25. All three are school-record holders, Big West champions and each will be racing in their specialties: Wallace in the 800 (2:03.39), Marshall in the 100 (11.34) and Fry in the steeplechase (9:58.97).
"The upcoming NCAA Championship meet presents our three women with an exciting opportunity to compete at the highest level of collegiate athletics while blending both team and individual objectives into the experience," said head coach Drew Wartenburg. "At this point, every race is a like a one-day season unto itself, and we will focus first on making the final during each woman's first appearance on the track."
The meet begins on Wednesday and continues through Saturday afternoon. Most of the running event finals will take place over the final two days while field finals will occur each afternoon. The decathlon and heptathlon competitions will be held on Wednesday and Thursday.
Wallace, who enters the championship meet ranked fifth nationally, will race in the first of three semifinal heats of the 800 on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. She has the second-fastest seed mark in her race, trailing only Natoya Goule of LSU who went 2:04.05 in the East Regional. Goule owns the nation's fastest time in 2:00.76. The top two from each heat plus the next two fastest times will advance to Friday's final at 5:20 p.m.
Marshall will take the track shortly after Wallace's race on Friday, opening the 100 semifinals at 5:30 and also looking to be either a top-two finisher in her heat or one of the next two fastest overall. She'll race in lane 2 of the third semifinal race. Marshall went 11.70 seconds at the regional meet but her school record (11.34) from the Big West Championships ranks her 16th nationally.
Marshall will have competitors from SMU, UCLA, Illinois, LSU, Florida, UCF and Florida A&M in her heat. The 100 final will take place at 5 p.m.
Fry, in her first season running the steeplechase, will compete in her semifinal on Thursday at 5:40 p.m. She'll race in the first of two prelims, each comprised of 12 runners. Fry's seed time of 9:58.97 is third-fastest in her race and just one of six faster than 10 minutes in the two races combined. The top five finishers in each heat plus the the next two best times will qualify for Saturday's final at 2:57 p.m.
"Reaching this final round of competition actually lifts some of the pressure, palpably present in Austin, to qualify to the championships," Wartenburg said. "At this stage, competing shoulder to shoulder among the 24 best athletes in one's event creates a unique and special opportunity.
"For the three women competing in Eugene this week, the meet is a chance to see how they measure up on a national scale, and on an individual level there will be important learning moments that they will be able to apply as their careers unfold," he added.
UC Davis did not qualify women for the national finals until discus thrower Ashley Hearn and 10,000-meter specialist Sarah Sumpter qualified for last year's meet in Des Moines, Iowa. Hearn finished third, earning All-America first-team honors, while Sumpter received second-team recognition after finishing 15th.
"Eugene stands as one of the best places in our country to compete in the sport of track & field due the competitive environment, unparalleled facilities and knowledgable fan base," said Wartenburg. "Hayward Field is a place where magical moments can happen, and I can't think of a better scenario for Lauren, Ashley and Katie to cap their 2013 collegiate seasons."