Lantern file photo
Finishing in the top 12 places is the goal for almost every participant at the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Preliminary Championship Competitions. Split into East and West regionals, the top 12 finishers in each event will qualify for that event’s 24-athlete field at the 2012 NCAA Championships.
Ohio State’s track and field program will be well-represented, with 21 men and 17 women making the trip to Jacksonville, Fla., to compete in the NCAA East Regional preliminaries, which begin Thursday.
OSU women’s track and field won its second consecutive Big Ten outdoor title this season. Coach Karen Dennis said she expects her team to carry momentum from their conference championship victory, but that they must be prepared for increased competition.
“We have to have some confidence in our preparation, so obviously what we’ve been doing has been a key ingredient as to why we’ve been able to be successful,” Dennis said. “And right now, we also have to realize that that’s over, and where we may have been successful in the Big Ten arena, now we’re getting into the national arena. So just forget anything that you’ve done, because the stakes are higher now.”
The women’s team is highlighted by senior sprinter Christina Manning, the Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year, and junior thrower Alexis Thomas, the Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year. Both athletes set school records this season, and hold No. 1 seeds in their individual events in the East regional.
Manning set the school record in the 100-meter hurdles at the Jim Click Shootout on March 31 with a time of 12.68 seconds. Manning’s time ranks as the fastest in the NCAA this year.
Manning finished first at prelims last season, and said she expects to defend her title.
“I really feel as though I should win, and that I am going to win,” Manning said.
Thomas set the school record in the hammer throw with her winning distance of 64.62 meters at the Big Ten Championships on May 11. Thomas is ranked No. 8 in the NCAA in the hammer throw.
Thomas said she expects to improve upon her record this weekend.
“I’ve been putting myself in a good position to throw further, so that’s what I’m expecting,” Thomas said. “I’ve really been focusing on staying consistent and building off of that throw.”
Manning will also compete on OSU’s 4×100-meter relay team, which goes into the meet ranked 12th nationally. OSU’s 4×100 team, which consists of junior Nyjah Cousar, senior Jackie Dim, freshman Aisha Cavin and senior Shaniqua McGinnis, is seeded fourth.
Other OSU women seeded in the top 12 include McGinnis in the 400-meter dash (10th), Cousar in the 400-meter hurdles (seventh) and senior Maggie Mullen in the hammer throw (seventh).
On the men’s side, OSU finished fourth at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Interim coach Ed Beathea graded his team’s performance at the Big Ten meet as a “B or B-plus”, but is confident in his team heading into prelims.
“I think we’re in a great spot,” Beathea said. “I think we’ve got a good number of guys that have a very good chance of advancing through if they go out and compete well.”
Redshirt junior distance runner Cory Leslie holds the highest seed among the OSU men, ranked No. 2 in the East for the 3,000-meter steeplechase. With a time of 8:32.48, he is seeded only behind Michigan’s Craig Forys, who defeated Leslie in the event at Big Ten championships.
Senior long jumper Mike Hartfield won the Big Ten title with a jump of 7.96 meters, which has him seeded No. 4 going into the prelims. Redshirt senior thrower Matt DeChant is seeded sixth in the shot put with a best throw of 19.38 meters, while freshman Antonio Blanks is seeded seventh in 400-meter hurdles with a time of 50.50 seconds.
DeChant said that he hopes to finish higher than he is seeded.
“I’d like to place top five,” DeChant said. “That’d be a great goal.”
The 4×400-meter relay team, which consists of senior Thomas Murdaugh, junior Marvel Brooks, junior Korbin Smith and Blanks is seeded ninth. The 4×100-meter relay team of sophomore Demoye Bogle, freshman Timothy Faust, freshman Nick Batcha and sophomore Brandon Blackwell is seeded 13th.
Other OSU men seeded in the top 12 include Murdaugh in the 400-meter dash (12th), senior Adam Green in the 3,000-meter steeplechase (10th) and Smith in the long jump (11th).
The NCAA East Prelims, which are held on the campus of University of North Florida, will begin Thursday and conclude Saturday.