Nineteen of Ohio State’s top track and field athletes will participate in the NCAA’s highest level of competition this season, the NCAA Division I Track and Field Outdoor Championships.
Eighteen of these 19 OSU athletes earned their berth in the national meet at the NCAA East Prelims, which were held Thursday through Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla. In order to qualify for the national championships, an athlete or relay team had to finish in the top 12 in preliminary competition. On the men’s side, six individuals and one relay team earned top-12 finishes, while five individuals and two relay teams qualified from the women’s team.
Senior sprinter Christina Manning will lead the OSU women into nationals. She was the lone winner among OSU athletes at the prelims, with a time of 12.78 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles. That time is good enough for Manning to hold the No. 1 seed going into the national championship meet.
Coach Karen Dennis said Manning “has an excellent shot” to win the national title in the 100-meter hurdles.
Manning is also a member of the 4×100-meter relay team, which finished second in prelims with a time of 43.98 seconds. That team also consists of junior Christienne Linton, freshman Aisha Cavin and sophomore Chesna Sykes.
Cavin also qualified as a member of the 4×400-meter relay team, which ran a time of 3:33.41 to finish third at prelims. The 4×400-meter relay team also includes junior Nyjah Cousar, senior Jackie Dim and senior Shaniqua McGinnis. Cousar and McGinnis also qualified as individuals. Cousar placed 10th in the 400-meter hurdles (58.19 seconds) while McGinnis finished 12th in the 400-meter dash (52.78 seconds).
The OSU women also doubled up with qualifiers in the hammer throw. Junior Alexis Thomas, who went into the meet as the No.1 seed in the hammer throw after setting the OSU school record and Big Ten Outdoor Championship meet record with her throw of 64.62 meters, finished sixth with a throw of 60.43 meters at prelims. Senior Maggie Mullen earned the 12th and final qualifying spot with a throw of 57.91 meters.
Dennis said she believes her qualifying athletes can place high enough to score points in the national championship meet, but that competing at the elite level comes down to motivation.
“It’s about who wants it the most, and who’s willing to fight for it for it the most,” Dennis said. “We have to be real scrappy.”
Among the OSU men, senior long jumper Mike Hartfield was the first Buckeye to qualify in Jacksonville, earning a sixth-place finish with a jump of 7.62 meters on Thursday.
On Friday, the Buckeyes doubled up with earning berths in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, with redshirt junior Cory Leslie and senior Adam Green both qualifying with respective times of 8:41.95 and 8:43.96.
“Cory Leslie is probably in a great spot to really make an impact on the national championship meet,” said interim head coach Ed Beathea.
Freshman Antonio Blanks will compete in two events at nationals. He qualified in the 400-meter hurdles with a third-place finish in a time of 50.19 seconds. He is also on the 4×400-meter relay team that finished seventh with 3:06.08, along with juniors Korbin Smith and Marvel Brooks and senior Thomas Murdaugh.
Murdaugh, who finished 15th at nationals last year in the 400-meter dash with a time of 46.02 seconds, failed to qualify individually this year, finishing 25th at prelims with a time of 48.40 seconds. Murdaugh said he has battled groin and hip injuries throughout his senior season, and was unable to run as fast as he did last year.
“Not making it in the 400 was definitely a disappointment,” Murdaugh said.
Other men’s qualifiers are senior Matt DeChant in shot put (18.89 meters) and sophomore Demoye Bogle in the 110-meter hurdles (13.81 seconds).
Redshirt junior Heath Nickles will also compete at national championships in the decathlon. The decathlon is not contested at prelims, but with one of the top 24 decathlon scores in the nation, Nickles goes into nationals as the No.12 seed.
The 2012 NCAA Division I Track and Field Outdoor Championships will be held June 6-9 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.