May 26, 2006
A hot afternoon in Provo, UT for the 2006 West Regional Championships welcomed the athletes looking for those coveted NCAA Championship qualifying spots. For the Gauchos, no automatic qualifiers were achieved in the first round of the NCAA Championships, but two were left to wait until early next week for the announcement of the at-large berths.
Beginning with the 5,000m races, the dry and warm conditions led the meet staff to postpone the start of the race a little over an hour. Racing at just over 4,600 feet the women set off first in the twelve and a half lap race around the Clarence Robison Track on BYU's campus. On the line were three Gauchos, Megan Lewis (Jr.), Seanna Martin (Sr.) and Stephanie Rothstein (Jr.).
The field went out at approximately 84 seconds and on the 2nd lap a pair of Stanford Cardinals wasted no time in making it an honest race in the thin air, dropping it to 81 and 82's. With a few runners already off the back of the pack by the mile mark, the Gaucho pack sat within the still large lead pack. For Martin the pace proved to be a bit too fast as she faded off. Rothstein also was not fighting mid race fatigue leaving Lewis, the 5th ranked athlete in the field to hang on.
By two miles the field had strung out and the lead pack continued to click off 82's. Much slower than their bests, however the oxygen depleted air at 4,600 feet slows down the distance events quite a bit. Even with the NCAA subtracting twenty-four seconds off their final times to make up for the altitude, it proved to be too much for many of the runners tonight. Lewis, was next to succumb to the pace. The Gauchos falling off the top five were now left to finish in the top twelve in order to be placed in the at-large pool.
Holding on, Lewis would come across the line in 8th place in 17:36.08. Even though every woman in the field to qualify had bests under 16:52, only two dipped under seventeen minutes and only the top three ran under 16:52 after converting their marks. Martin picked up a few faltering athletes to finish 10th in 17:44.11 and Rothstein was the last at-large spot in 12th at 17:49.49.
Lewis still has an outside shot around 50% to qualify for the NCAA National Championships through the at-large pool. Her best of 16:28.28 is currently the ninth woman in the 5,000m pool. Last year the NCAA took seven, although they may take up to nine. If some of the women with both 5k and 10k qualifying marks choose the 10k that too will improve Lewis' chances to race in Sacramento in less than two weeks.
In the Men's 5,000m, Chris Ashley (So.) made his first Regional appearance tonight lining up with the best in the west. Fifteen started just past eight this evening with the first lap going out at a 74 second lap. To qualify to the West Regional Championships tonight's athletes had dip under 14:10 or approximately 68 seconds per lap. The field then much like the Women's race picked up to 70's and 71's slowly stringing out the field.
What was once a large pack, by two miles, only three remained up front with fourth and fifth place virtually sealed up as they were well ahead of 6th place. Back in the chase packs, slowing back to 72's-74's per lap through the middle of the race, Ashley struggled to gain his usual pop falling back as far as 10th place. However, he saw light as those ahead of him were no longer gaining distance but even coming back to him in the final mile.
With 1,000m to go Ashley picked up one and continued to move. Two laps to go, he found himself within striking distance of 6th place. An important position if one of the top five automatic qualifies chose to do the 10k at the National Championships instead of the 5k. With one lap remaining he had moved into 7th place with a Pilot from Portland University 20m ahead. Only 250m to go; Ashley unleashed his always powerful kick and grabbed 6th place crossing the line in 14:51.97.
The Gaucho Sophomore is currently ranked 11th in the at-large pool. With the NCAA only selecting six to nine athletes out of the pool his chances are currently slim, however if Robert Chesert of Arizona who won the 5k, chose only the 10k, it would theoretically move Ashley into an automatic qualifying position. With only two other athletes in the country possibly being able to choose the 10k over the 5k, it would appear that would be Ashley's best chance in racing in Sacramento. It will become official early next week.
Earlier in the afternoon, Kylie McCuen (Sr.) stepped into her blocks in the Women's 200m Dash. Looking to qualify into finals, McCuen would have to finish faster than two of the Women. She entered the meet ranked 8th. In heat one of two, McCuen would get out well, but a fast field broke away from her early. Unable to turn it over into her last gear she would come up just a bit short, running only .02 off her wind legal best of 23.81. The 23.83 this afternoon would not be enough to qualify into finals.
Nonetheless, McCuen finishes her Senior season as one of the most accomplished Gauchos in history winning the 200m and 400m Big West titles in back to back years, being named the Big West Track Athlete of the Year in '05 and also holds the 200m school record as well as being a member of the school record holding 4x100m and 4x400m squads.
Starting off the day for the Gauchos was Reif Lawson (So.) who broke into the Regional Championships when he went 189 feet in the Hammer Throw at home versus Cal Poly SLO, four weeks ago. Lawson needing a 200 foot throw to potentially make it to finals would try and plant a good one that would be capable of getting him into finals. Unable to get a great hold of one he would finish 17th with a mark of 176-01 feet.
The NCAA West Regional Championships continue Saturday afternoon with the remaining finals events in Provo, UT. For the Gauchos, a pack of shot putters will look wreak havoc in the ring, while Gabe Mann in the Javelin looks to use the thin air to his advantage. Also, Kent Centers and Jacob Maus will enter the High Jump and rounding out the day for UCSB, Mike Chavez and Bethany Nickless get after National qualifying spots in the 3,000m steeplechase. Events begin at 10am Mountain Time.