A successful opening day at the NCAA West Preliminary for Texas Tech track and field resulted in six Red Raiders qualifying for nationals in Sacramento, California as several quarterfinal races will be had over the weekend.
Senior Charles Brown was the first of three long jumpers to qualify for the national meet as he jumped 25’-4.25” (7.74m), earning him fifth place, according to a Tech Athletics news release. Junior Justin Hall followed with a 25’-3.25” (7.70m) jump to place sixth, advancing out of the NCAA West Preliminary after missing nationals last year. Senior Odaine Lewis took bronze in his first Division I championship last year and will return to nationals as he ranked 10th in the preliminary.
“Having all three guys advance to Austin was certainly the goal,” associate head coach James Thomas said, according to the release. “But seeing it become a reality allows a split second to take a deep breath and simply appreciate it. Our number one goal in every event is to advance.”
In the high jump, senior Zarriea Willis qualified for nationals as she came in 10th place in her event, coming off of an indoor national championship win, according to the release. Willis qualified with a 5’-8.75” (1.75m) jump as nobody went over six feet. With the qualifying jump, Willis has made it to nationals in all four years that she has been at Tech.
Pole vaulting seniors Brandon Bray and Drew McMichael both cleared 17’-5” (5.31m) but could not get over 17’-7” (5.36m), according to the release. Both Red Raiders tied for 10th with two Texas A&M vaulters, resulting in a jump-off for the final three spots to nationals.
“It’s extremely nerve-wracking when you have four guys fighting for three spots,” McMichael said, according to the release. “You usually jump against yourself, but in this meet you’re jumping against 24 other guys and fighting for one of those national spots.”
Fighting for a trip to the nationals, the bar was lowered back down to 17’-7” (5.36m), according to the release.
“You either clear the bar or you don’t,” volunteer assistant coach Tom Slagle said, according to the release. “I think we were in a good position, but it got down to where you just have to go compete. You’ve got to go clear that next bar.”
Bray cleared the jump on his first attempt but on McMichael’s way over on his first attempt, he knocked the bar off, according to the release. McMichael went over cleanly on his second attempt as both Aggies missed their vaults, giving Bray and McMichael both the automatic bids to nationals.
“You always want to PR,” McMichael said, according to the release. “But that’s not this kind of meet. I found myself trying to advance and that’s what I did. It didn’t go the way we wanted, but we still got the same result and we’re going to Austin so that’s all that matters.”
Transitioning to events on the track, junior Divine Oduduru and senior Andrew Hudson both advanced to the quarterfinals of the 100m which will be run on Friday, according to the release. Oduduru finished his heat with a 10.17 as Hudson followed with a 10.27 in the next heat to earn spots in the quarterfinals.
In the 800m, seniors Vincent Crisp and Jonah Koech earned quarterfinal bids as well, according to the release. Crisp ran a 1:50.67 to win his heat and Koech ran a 1:51.17, sending them both to the quarterfinals.
Both the men’s and women’s team had Red Raiders qualify for the quarterfinals on Friday in the 400m hurdles, according to the release. Junior Norman Grimes Jr. won his heat with a 50.49 as the women’s team’s senior Alaysha Johnson’s 58.59 earned her one of the six at-large bids available.
The second day of the NCAA West Preliminary will start at 2 p.m. CT on Friday in Sacramento, California.