NCAA Track and Field Championships Preview

Updated 6/4/2013

 

Courtesy of MAC Athletic Communication Departments
 
Akron
AKRON, Ohio – The University of Akron will send six athletes, including four entries from the women's side, to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., this week. For the Zips, the action begins Wednesday and runs through Friday from historic Hayward Field.
 
Portions of the meet will be broadcast on ESPN3.com Thursday. ESPNU will air parts of the meet Friday. For a complete broadcast schedule, log on to USTFCCCA.org.
 
Two UA athletes will enter the competition ranked in the top 10 of their respective events. Freshman pole vaulter Shawn Barber is ranked No. 2 in the country with a top clearance of 18-08.75 (5.71m) while junior thrower Brittany Funk begins the week ranked No. 8 in the women's hammer with a top mark of 216-09 (66.08m).
 
Barber earned USTFCCCA First Team All-America honors after placing fifth in the pole vault at the NCAA Indoor Championships last February. Funk finished one position shy of the top eight in the weigth throw at the indoor meet, earning All-America Second Team honors.
 
Barber and Funk will each compete Wednesday, along with teammates Alex McCune (decathlon) and Brittany Cheese (women's long jump). McCune, who swept the combined event titles in the Mid-American Conference in 2013, advanced to the NCAA Indoor Championships last winter where he placed 10th in the heptathlon. Cheese grabbed the final spot in the women's long jump with a leap of 19-11.50 at the NCAA East Preliminary Round to earn her first trip to nationals.
 
The Zips' championship week continues Thursday when two-time MAC Champion and school-record holder Alexis Cooks attempts to better her mark in the women's discus. Sophomore Claire Lucas rounds out the list of UA entries Friday in the women's pole vault.
 
UA's entries will be looking to add to the tradition of the Zips track and field program, which already includes a pair of individual national champions. Christi Smith, who was recently inducted into the MAC Hall of Fame, made history in 2000 when she became the first national champion in school history, capturing gold in the heptathlon. Stevi Large was the next to accomplish the feat, winning the women's hammer throw in 2009.
 
 
Bowling Green
Eugene, Ore. – Bowling Green State University redshirt sophomore Brooke Pleger will compete in the NCAA Division I Women’s Outdoor Track and Field National Championship June 5-8. Pleger, who won the East Regional Preliminary, is ranked fifth in the country in the event.
 
The hammer throw will be the first contested event at the championship, taking place at 4:30 pm Wednesday. Based on results from the Regional Championships, Pleger is the No. 7 seed at the national championship. While Pleger’s throw of 210-feet-1 meters was the best in the East, six competitors threw further than that distance in the West, including top-seeded Chelsea Cassulo of Arizona State. She threw 229-11 meters to win the West.
 
Pleger is one of three Mid-American Conference hammer throws in the 24-person field at the NCAA National Championship. Akron’s Brittany Funk is seeded eighth and Buffalo’s Shant’e White is 19th.
 
Only five Falcons have ever scored points at an NCAA Division I Women’s Outdoor Track and Field National Championship and none have placed higher than sixth. Listed below are the all-time results for BGSU student-athletes who scored points at the national championship. Interestingly, all of the program’s previous scorers did so in field events.
 
Although Pleger is seeded seventh at the national championship, she is ranked fifth in the country as only four others have thrown further than the 219-9 toss she had at the Northeast Ohio Invitational. Arizona State’s Chelsea Cassulo (229-0), Princeton’s Julia Ratcliffe (225-9), Kansas’ Alena Krechyk (223-7) and UCLA’s Ida Storm (223-3) are the only competitors to throw further than 220 feet this year. In fact, Pleger defeated Ratcliffe when the pair went head-to-head at the NCAA East Region Preliminary. Storm is the only competitor in the field to out throw Pleger this year, defeating BGSU’s redshirt sophomore at the Mt. SAC Relays.
 
 
Buffalo

 
 
Eastern Michigan
YPSILANTI, Mich. (EMUEagles.com) - Eastern Michigan University sophomore Victoria Voronko (Stavropol, Russia-University of Moscow) will travel to Eugene, Ore. to represent the EMU women's track and field team at the 2013 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championship, June 6-8. The national championship, hosted by the University of Oregon, will take place at Hayward Field, one of the most famous track and field venues in the world.
 
“Victoria has had a fantastic season so far, and competing in her first national championships is a huge honor and thrill for her,” stated EMU Head Coach Sue Parks. “She is excited about the opportunity to compete against the best athletes in the nation, and I feel that she is ready for a great showing.”
 
Voronko will run in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, an event she has shined in throughout the season. She will take the track in the event's semifinals Thursday, June 6, at 8:35 p.m. The Stavropol, Russia native qualified for the national championship with yet another school record-breaking time at the NCAA East Regional, May 24, in Greensboro, N.C. The MAC champion's time of 10:08.10 shattered her previous EMU record of 10:15.74 as the sophomore sensation broke the record for the third time this outdoor campaign, crossing the finish line in ninth place. The time not only punched Voronko's ticket to the national championship, but it also gave her the No. 20 seed for the race.
 
In four steeplechase races this season, Voronko has tallied a pair of victories as well as a third-place finish at the Drake Relays, April 25, where she set her previous school record of 10:15.74. The Eagles' top distance runner took first at the Sea Ray Relays, April 12, as well as winning her first Mid-American Conference Championship, May 10.
 
Thursday, Eagles' fans can watch Voronko run live on ESPN3 (ESPN3.com). Coverage of the the national championship meet begins at 6:50 p.m. If Voronko qualifies in the semifinals, she will race in the finals at 5:57 p.m. Saturday, June 8, with the 3,000-meter steeplechase national championship at stake.
 
 
Kent State
KENT, Ohio – They're the future of Kent State's track and field program, but their time is now.  They come from as far as France and Jamaica, and just down the road in Solon and Youngstown, but beginning Wednesday (June 5) through Saturday (June 8), they'll call Eugene, Ore. home.
 
That's where the spectacle of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships will unfold.  When freshmen Dior Delophont, Danniel Thomas and Reggie Jagers, and sophomore Matthias Tayala step onto the University of Oregon's Hayward Field, the centerpiece of "Track Town, USA," they'll do so with All-American dreams in mind.
 
Standing on the podium at track and field's most famous venue would be a crowning achievement, but, with the nation's premier student-athletes competing, the young quartet of Golden Flashes know its work is just beginning.
 
"We're thrilled to have Dior, Danniel, Reggie and Matthias representing Kent State at nationals," said Bill Lawson, Kent State's director of track and field and cross country.  "You never take anything for granted at this level, but we have confidence in these kids.   They're going to have to bring their 'A' game for sure, but they'll be okay if they just continue doing what they've been doing all season."
 
The top eight finishers in each event in Eugene earn First Team All-American honors, with places nine through 16 garnering Second Team accolades.  Each event boasts the top 24 student-athletes/relay teams in the nation, half the field that competed in each event May 23-25 at the NCAA East and West Prelims, respectively.  The top 12 finishers in each event from the East and West qualified to Eugene.
 
 
Miami
OXFORD, Ohio – Earning her third trip to the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships this year, Miami University junior Tori Paterra is beginning to make the final meet of the year seem routine. But her journey to this year’s NCAA Championships has been anything but, overcoming injury and disappointment over the latter half of the season.
 
Paterra will be the lone RedHawk represented at the NCAA Championships for the second straight year when she throws the javelin on Wednesday, June 5 in Eugene, Ore. in the National Championship. The javelin begins at 8:15 p.m. ET (5:15 p.m. local) at the University of Oregon’s historic Hayward Field. Although she is a veteran of the National Championships, this will be a new experience for Paterra, as her first two years the NCAA meet was held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
 
“I’ve never been to Oregon, but I hear it’s amazing. It’s going to be pretty different just because I’m so used to being at Drake,” said Paterra, who has also competed at the Drake Relays several times, including this year. “My plan is to Google the track there (at Oregon), Google the runway and then try to visualize as much as possible since I can’t practice on it as much as I’d like to. Then, hopefully when I get there it’s just like I’ve been there before.”
 
After spending this past weekend with her family in her hometown of Elizabeth, Pa., Paterra, along with throws coach Stacey Wannemacher, traveled to Eugene on Monday and will get her first look at Hayward Field in person with a short practice on Tuesday.
 
Paterra, who enters the NCAA meet seeded 22nd in the javelin, nearly didn’t make it to Eugene. At the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds in Greensboro, N.C. on Saturday, May 25, she sat in 23rd place (out of 48) with only one throw left and needing a top-16 finish to make the preliminary final and ultimately a top-12 finish to qualify for the NCAA Championships. 
 
Knowing she had a stress reaction in her back and trying to limit the pain, Paterra’s plan was to hit a big throw on the first of her three attempts to put her in comfortable position for a berth, and then pass on the ensuing throws. She fired a monster throw on her first attempt, hitting what would have been near a personal best with a 165-foot throw. But her ankle gave out and she tripped over the line, causing her to foul. After a not-so-great second throw, the pressure was on for Paterra to have a big third throw to move her up in the standings. 
 
“I said to myself ‘Tori, you are not even making finals right now. What are you doing? Get your head straight.’ On the next throw, I tried to stay as calm as possible and relax and let my body hit into the positions it knows how to hit,” Paterra explained. “I was hoping to get 150s/160s (feet) because I knew if I could hit 47 meters to 50 meters I’d be golden, so that was kind of the goal was just to get to the next round.”
 
And sure enough, Paterra was up to the task, winging the javelin 47.22m/154-11 to vault into ninth place and make the preliminary final. After three more throws for the top 16 (Paterra passed on her sixth attempt), she sat in 10th and had locked up her spot at the NCAA Championships, joining Andrea Kremer (2001, 2003-04) and Sarah Landau (2005-07) as the only RedHawks in program history to be a three-time NCAA Championships qualifier. The top 12 finishers from both the East and West Preliminary Rounds advanced to Eugene, creating a 24-woman final.
 
Along with competing in a new place at this year’s NCAA meet, Paterra will be competing against many new faces, as 11 of the 24 NCAA qualifiers in the javelin are freshmen, while she is the only Mid-American Conference javelin thrower to make the Championships. Last year, Paterra was one of four MAC javelin throwers in the NCAA field. 
 
“It’s always nice having the familiar faces cheer you on. At regionals, it was awesome. All the Kent State girls were sitting there cheering me on. It’s nice to have that,” said Paterra, who was one of five MAC javelin throwers at the East Prelims. “But at the same time, it’s pretty cool to be the only one going (to the NCAAs) from the MAC. MACs hasn’t gone that well for me the past two years, so this is just kind of my own thing where I have a chance to be an All-American. MAC champion would be awesome, but at the end of the day you really want that All-American status.”
 
For the second straight year, Paterra finished third in the javelin at the MAC Outdoor Championships May 9 in Akron, Ohio after winning her lone MAC title as a freshman. After breaking her own school record earlier this year at the All-Ohio Championships April 12 with a throw of 50.51m/165-8, she was the top seed entering the MAC meet, but again came up short. The disappointing finish was only part of her problem though, as that’s when her back issues began to flare up.
 
Throughout her javelin career, Paterra has dealt with back issues. For most of this season, her problem was on her left side, especially in practice, but during meets, her adrenaline was able to push her through it. As the MAC Championships approached, however, she noticed it was getting worse. 
 
“I must have been hitting a really good block and hitting good positions and after the (MAC) meet I was sitting there and could not move. I was trying to get in the car and I couldn’t even lift my legs up,” she noted.
 
After the pain persisted and prevented her from sleeping well, Paterra had an MRI, which revealed her stress reaction on her right side. Initially, she thought it was a mistake, knowing that her left side was already an issue. But soon after the pain distinguished itself on her right side, she realized her entire back was going to be a concern heading into the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds.
 
“I’ve been wearing a brace and a weight belt, and it’s kind of taken away the pain. They’ve given me medicine and I use Biofreeze a lot, but I’ve been trying to not let it get to me,” Paterra said. “I have a very high pain tolerance and I would have to say this is by far the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I’m just trying to push through it. I’m not going to let it get the best of me. I have one more meet and then I can rest for five weeks.”
 
Despite her back problems, Paterra will be looking to top her finish from last year’s NCAA Championships when she earned First-Team All-America for finishing seventh in the country with her throw of 49.67m/162-11, which was her best throw all of last season and is the third-best in Miami history (all owned by Paterra). As a freshman, Paterra earned Honorable Mention All-America by placing 20th at the NCAA meet.
 
Oddly enough, Paterra would have never even competed in track and field in college if not for her high school track coach. Growing up, all Paterra did was play softball. And heading into high school that was her plan – to continue her softball career. But one day while she was throwing the shot put in eighth grade for her middle school team, one of the track and field coaches at Elizabeth Forward High School asked her to give the javelin a try right then and there. Naturally, it wasn’t the greatest throw, but it was enough for Coach John Walsh to ask her to come out for the high school track team the following year.
 
Paterra, who then was only lukewarm to the idea of throwing the javelin, knew she wanted to play softball in the spring when she arrived at EFHS, which would conflict with track and field season. Walsh told her perhaps she could do both sports. He even tracked her down in the hallways during spring sport sign-ups to make sure she enlisted. After running the idea by her dad, who said “it can’t hurt,” Paterra decided to give it a shot. After almost making the Pennsylvania state meet as a freshman, she was hooked.
 
“I guess somewhere along the line I fell in love with this thing (the javelin) and was like ‘I guess we’re just going to switch’,” Paterra said. “I changed my whole future goals. There was a lot of ‘Do I want to do this, what do I do, is this really the best route.’ It’s turned out the best for me so far.”
 
The more she threw the javelin, the better she picked it up. She explained that by trying a new sport, it forced her to think a lot more, but she quickly learned the unique event, which allowed her to also enjoy it more.
 
“And seeing the fact that I could potentially go to college on a pretty high scholarship, be an All-American or go to the Olympic trials was really exciting for me,” Paterra continued. “After having a father that went to the NFL, you always want to follow in his footsteps, and although I can’t go to the NFL, I might try something else so we’ll see what happens”
 
Paterra was first recruited to Miami by Mark Rodriguez, who was the throws coach at Miami from 2007-10. But by the time she arrived on campus, Rodriguez had left for Purdue and Ross Richardson took over as throws coach. Richardson guided Paterra to her lone MAC title and to her first NCAA meet, before taking a job at Virginia. Enter Wannemacher, who was a thrower herself at Purdue under Richardson and is now in her second season at Miami. For the first time this season, Paterra had the same throws coach for consecutive seasons, something she feels has helped a lot.
 
“I’ve noticed the consistency in myself as a thrower and just the fact that I’ve gotten so much stronger,” she said. “Me and Stacey work together so well and communicate very well. If I don’t think something’s going right, or she doesn’t think so, we’ll just change things up or work on one thing at a time. It’s been really nice to have the same coach. I couldn’t ask for a better one.”
 
And so on Wednesday, Wannemacher will try to help Paterra fight through her back injury and repeat as a First-Team All-American.
 
“It’s really exciting to go three years in a row. It’s kind of been my goal to make it (to NCAAs) every year and going in (seeded) 17th last year and coming out seventh was more than I could ever ask for,” Paterra admitted. “I know I’m going in pretty high (seeding-wise) this year too, but I’ve had some setbacks. My goal is to make finals, make top eight again and hopefully maybe even place better than I did last year.”
 
Each of the 24 throwers, divided into two flights (Paterra is in flight one), will get three throws, with the top nine then advancing to the finals for another three throws. From there, the final places will be decided with the top eight garnering First-Team All-America, places 9-16 earning Second-Team All-America and 17-24 getting Honorable Mention All-America. Live results and live streaming for the NCAA Championships will be available on MURedHawks.com and GoDucks.com.