FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. ? The University of Akron track and field programs started the 2008 NCAA Mideast Regional on the right foot as junior Stevi Large won the women’s hammer in the first event Friday with a distance of 202-9 (61.78) to earn a berth to the NCAA Outdoor Championship. The Zips had a second NCAA Championship qualifier as Cadeau Kelley (Cleveland/Marshall HS) placed fifth in the men’s long jump.
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Large (Somerset, Ohio/Sheridan HS) becomes the fourth Zip to win an NCAA Region title since the regionals were conceived in 2003, joining Kira Sims (pole vault in 2004), John Russell (pole vault in 2005) and Tomasz Smialek (high jump in 2006).
The NCAA Mideast Region was the toughest among the four regions in the women’s hammer as Large defeated 2007 & ?08 NCAA Indoor weight throw champion, as well as the world record holder in the weight throw, Brittany Riley (Southern Illinois) by three inches and her collegiate as well as high school rival Veronica Jatsek (Ohio State), who threw 198-11. The Mideast Region featured an NCAA-best field of 334 competitors with an NCAA-best 13 of the nation’s top 35 performers. Large, who was an All-American in the weight throw during the 2008 NCAA Indoor season, automatically qualifies for her third NCAA Outdoor Championship. UA freshman Valerie Wert competed in the hammer as well, placing 33rd with a throw of 162-10 (49.63). Large and Wert ended day one of the meet Friday by competing in the discus. Wert placed 18th with a distance of 153-8 (46.85) and Large, who fouled twice, placed 27th with a throw of 140-8 (42.88).
Kelley, who had the fourth-best jump in the nation prior to the regional, only needed a top 12 finish to advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. However, he took out all the guesswork by getting the automatic berth with a fifth-place finish at NCAA Mideast Regional. The 2008 Mid-American Conference Male Most Outstanding Field Performer with dual titles in the long and triple jumps had a leap of 25-7.50 (7.81) at the Mideast Regional. The senior will be making his second appearance at a national championship, placing 14th in the long jump at the 2008 NCAA Indoors. Competing in his first regional, freshman Collister Fahie placed 22nd in the field of 33 with a jump of 23-11.50 (7.30).
Advancing to Friday’s final was sophomore Larisa Arcip in the women’s 1500. The Vaslui, Romania native placed 10th in the field of 19 with a time of 4:29.33. The top 12 from the women’s 1500 advanced to the final. Although she qualified for the 800, Arcip did not participate in order to concentrate on the 1500, the event which she is the two-time MAC champion.
The Zips nearly added another national qualifier ion Friday in the women’s pole vault. Carrie Kayes (Green, Ohio) was one of three to tie for fourth, clearing a personal-record 13-3.75 (4.06) for the third-best vault in UA history. In the jump off, Purdue’s Mallory Peck advanced first, once again clearing 13-3.75, a height Kayes and Wisconsin’s Jenny Soceka missed. In the second round of the jump off, Kayes could not clear 13-1.75 while Soceka did to earn the fifth and final automatic berth to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Also in the pole vault, senior Crystal Goldsmith Dunn placed 11th, clearing 12-11.75 (3.96). The 2008 MAC Outdoor champion Jessica Miller Hafner tied for 19th with a vault of 12-0 (3.66). This is the second consecutive year a Zip lost out to an NCAA automatic bid in the pole vault in a jump off with Dunn suffering a similar fate in the 2007 regional.
In the men’s high jump, Akron’s Ryan Jones and Mike McCall both cleared 6-9 (2.06) to tie for 10th. However, they were one of nine to clear the same height as the fifth-place finishers, but did not qualify for the jump off due previous misses. The Zips’ Keith Huebner, competing in his first regional, placed 16th out of 33 in the shot put with a distance of 54-6 (16.61). Auston Papay, who qualified for the shot at this year’s regional and earned All-American in the event at the 2008 NCAA Indoors, did not participate Friday in the shot due to an injury. However, the senior will compete in the discus, an event he placed third in at last year’s NCAA Mideast Regional.
Junior Brittany Hocker placed 22nd of 25 with a time of 11.96 with just the top eight earning berths to the final. Hocker, the MAC 200 champion, also competed in regional in the 200, placing 16th with a time of 24.37. LaTalia Jones also completed in the 200, placing 15th with a time of 24.22. Aaron Dobson, Anthony Thomas nor Lorenzo Brazzell advanced to the men’s 100m final, which took the top eight from the preliminaries. Dobson tied for 12th with a time of 10.30, Thomas placed 20th (10.49) and Brazzell was 23rd (10.72). In the 200, Dobson, who won the 2008 MAC title in the event, placed 16th of 29 with a personal-record time of 21.13, while Thomas was 18th with a time of 21.17.
The 2008 MAC javelin champion Tyler Sweet placed 24th with a throw of 182-1 (55.51). In the women’s long jump, sophomore Niesha Kelly placed 19th, getting only one legal jump of 19-1.50 (5.83). Freshman Kim Lorentz, who earned her berth to the regional by virtue of winning the 2008 MAC title in the 5,000, placed 11th with a time of 16:59.72, 14 seconds better than 12th place.