UCR sends three track and field athletes to NCAA championship

Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER
Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER

Putting the icing on the cake of a very strong season, the UC Riverside track and field team produced a marvelous performance at the NCAA West Preliminaries.

The event took place at Mike A. Meyers Stadium in Austin, Texas, home of the Texas Longhorns. UC Riverside sent nine of its athletes to the event, including Hernell Dyer (100-meter), Michael Koger (400-meter hurdles), Ted Hooper (long jump), Ryan Swafford (triple jump), Travis Smith (shot put), Alisha Brown (800-meter), Raquel Hefflin (800-meter), Damajeria DuBose (1,500-meter) and Phoenisha Schuhmeier (long jump).

Each event was populated with the top 48 athletes of the region, with the top 12 in preliminary distance events and the top 12 in sprint semifinal events advancing to the NCAA Championship in Eugene, Ore. taking place from June 5-8.

Though having to endure a six-hour rain delay during Friday’s action, UCR’s athletes were not barred from leaving their mark during the meet.

Three of UCR’s nine athletes were able to punch a ticket into the tournament with impressive performances. Ted Hooper was the first on the UCR team to qualify for the NCAA Championship after he competed in the men’s long jump. Recording a leap of 7.79 meters, only one and a quarter inches below his record, Hooper was able to earn a fifth-place finish and secure a trip to Oregon.

Hernell Dyer clocked in at 10.64 seconds in the 100 heat, but just missed the mark to get into the championship by the slimmest of margins, 0.14 seconds.

Competing in the men’s shot put, Travis Smith barely missed the cut with a 14th-place finish in the event.

In the 800 heat, Alisha Brown and Raquel Hefflin finished with times of 2:09.45 and 2:10.96, respectively. However, both were unable to advance into the quarterfinal round, missing the cut by half a second.

Damajeria DuBose was the only athlete on the women’s team to advance to the NCAA Championship, breaking a career record with a 4:20.04 time in the 1,500 run.

Big West champion Ryan Swafford capped off an impressive UCR performance at the meet by joining Dubose and Hooper as competitors in the championship round. With only one jump needed to secure his spot in Oregon, Swafford posted a 15.85 meter leap on his first attempt. Though he fouled on his second jump, Swafford had already secured a spot in the championship and passed on his next four jumps.

With the season over for the rest of its athletes, the UCR track and field coaching staff will now turn all its attention toward DuBose, Hooper and Swafford as they get ready to take the biggest stage of their track careers, the NCAA National Championship, set to take place for three days at the University of Oregon on June 5.

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