It was typical Texas weather over the weekend with above average humidity and temperatures in the high-80s, as UCR headed to the University of Texas for the 2015 NCAA Division One West Region Prelims last Thursday through Saturday. The top 48 athletes in the nation for each event are selected to compete at this meet and UC Riverside represented well, sending a whopping 15 athletes to Austin, Texas.
The prelims kick off the playoff season for NCAA track with all competitors looking to extend their season by making it to the championships. To fend off elimination, athletes must score within the top 12 marks/times in order to compete at the championships with the exception of the relays where the top 24 times advance to the east side prelims.
Thursday kicked off with a bang for the blue and gold as Big West champ Michael Koger finished just outside the top 20 with a time of 52.05 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles to advance to the finals. 1500m runner Raquel Hefflin who ran a 4:23.71 and 800m runner Faith Makau (2:10.58) also were able to advance.
The day ended with more success for UCR as long jumper Danielle Littleton — who recently missed the Big West Hepathlete competition due to a hamstring injury — caught fire when she long jumped 6.21m (20’4.5”). This was only a half-inch shy of the school record, which was set by none other than Littleton herself earlier this year. Her jump put her in 11th place and she will look to perhaps set a new record as she moves to the NCAA Championships.
It was all in all a good day for UCR despite a few Highlanders failing to advance. 400m runners Justin Parker and Amber Wright both missed out on the finals with times of 47.52 and 54.35 respectively while 400m hurdler Zach Lewis placed 33rd overall running a 52.80. Vesta Bell also missed out placing 45th in the hammer throw with a 53.56m (175’9”).
Friday was a lot tougher for the Highlanders. Littleton attempted to replicate Thursday’s success by running in the 100m hurdles. However, she finished 31st overall with a time of 13.61. Meanwhile, Makau beat her qualifying time in the 800m by four seconds with a 2:06.32, but missed the Nationals by a little over a second. Koger also did not qualify, as his a 53.03 in the 400m hurdles placed him 23rd. Raquel Hefflin (1500m) also missed the championships by two seconds, with a time of 4:21.37 (18th place).
Saturday began with the 4x400m relays as the UCR women put together their best squad consisting of Noelle Abboud, Asha Giles, Jazmine Harper and Amber Wright. However, the team finished 24th overall with a time of 3:42.41. Seth Totten who placed 35th place in the men’s 5,000m (14:41.02) and triple jumper Craig Mauldin who placed 41st with a jump of 14.62m (47’11.75”) also missed the cut Saturday.
In the throwing events, Breana Jemison placed 29th with a 14.90m (48’10.75”) toss in the shot put and Deja Watkins finished the day with a 43.03m (141’2”) throw in the discus, which placed her 44th.
It was a competitive weekend for UC Riverside and Danielle Littleton will look to continue to represent the team in the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Outdoor Track and Field championships in Eugene, Oregon on June 10-13.