Auburn, Ala.--Following a strong effort at the regional qualifying meet, Coach Ralph Spry is taking what should be his best men’s team in recent years to the NCAA Track and Field Championships that start on Wednesday at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.
The men’s team, which features an impressive group of sprinters, has qualified for eight individual events and two relays. The women’s squad has qualified six competitors for seven individual events and one relay.
“I haven’t been this excited in quite a while and I have been here 20 years,” Spry says. “We have been fortunate for about 17 of them and the last couple of years we had to make a lot of changes. We hit some lows and I had to do some reloading, but I think it is finally getting back in place and that is always the toughest part because this is such a competitive conference.”
Odean Skeen, Kahlil Henderson, Teray Smith and Raheem Chambers are the fastest qualifiers in the 4x100 relay with a time of 38.74, the fourth best clocking in Auburn history.
Skean, who has run a 9.98 100 meters this season, has qualified in that event and will be joined in that race by Chambers. Skean won his qualifying heat at Lexington, Ky., with a time of 10.24 while Chambers, a freshman, posted a time of 10.37.
Henderson and Smith both qualified for the NCAA meet with times of 20.25 seconds in the 200 meters, which gives them the third fastest time in school history.
The men’s 4x400 relay featuring a pair of freshmen, Akeem Bloomfield and Nathon Allen, won the event in a time of 3:02.91 with sophomore Randall Ceneus and Smith helping the Tigers post the second best qualifying time for nationals.
Bloomfield, Allen and Ceneus each qualified for the 400 meters, the first time in AU history three runners have made nationals in that event. Bloomfield, the No. 2 national qualifier, posted a time of 44.74 in Lexington while Allen won his heat in 44.99. Ceneus ran a personal-best 45.83 to earn his spot. Allen set an AU freshman record in the 400 with a time of 44.52 to finish second at the SEC Championships where Bloomfield ran a 44.81 for third.
Wellington Zaza, who runs the 110 hurdles, has a chance to score at nationals, Spry says. He qualified in a time of 13.75.
For the women’s team the most likely scorer is senior triple jumper Marshay Ryan. “She is already a two-time NCAA runnerup,” Spry points out. “She had a big jump (44 feet, 1 1/2 inches) at the NCAA preliminaries and had a personal best so she is really hot right now.
“Our women’s 4x100 is running really well now,” Spry says of the group that features Natalliah Whyte, Jonielle Smith, Sashel Brown and Jenae Ambrose. Smith will also compete in the 100 meters and Brown will run the 400 hurdles.
Senior Veronica Eder qualified for the 5,000 meters (16:28.65) and the 10,000 (33:38.13). “If she runs smart I think she has a really good shot at scoring in the 10,000 meters,” Spry says.
Veronica Eder will try to have a big finish as a collegiate runner.
“I feel good about this group we are taking to Eugene,” the Auburn coach adds. “All year long this group has been focused. I challenged this team at the beginning of the year about being accountable on the track, off the track and just in life in general.
“We saw a lot of changes just by people buying into that so I am really proud how this team responded to that challenge.”