University Park, Pa. — Redshirt-junior Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Pa.) and senior Blake Eaton (Allegany, N.Y.) will both advance to the NCAA Championships next month, via outstanding efforts in shot put, Thursday at the NCAA Eastern Preliminary Round at the University of Indiana. Also punching her ticket to Des Moines was junior Kara Millhouse (Boiling Springs, Pa.), who mounted a sensational finishing kick to secure the 12th and final qualifying slot in the women’s 10,000-meters.
Cleanly advancing through early rounds of competition on Thursday were senior Megan Duncan (North Huntingdon, Pa.), sophomore Evonne Britton (El Paso, Texas), junior Ije Iheoma (Holland, Pa.), senior Ryan Foster (Tasmania, Australia), senior Samuel Borchers (Yellow Springs, Ohio), and sophomore Casimir Loxsom (New Haven, Conn.). All six Nittany Lions will compete again in Bloomington this weekend, with trips to the NCAA Finals on the line.
Kovacs and Eaton came out of the gate on fire, both posting efforts of over 58-feet on their opening attempt. Kovacs would improve to 61-7.50 (18.78) on his third attempt – his best effort of the day — securing fourth-place overall as well as his second-straight trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Eaton would record a stellar series, putting all six attempts over the 18-meter mark, and ending the day in fifth overall with a toss of 61-7 (18.77) on his fifth try of the competition. Eaton will also be making his second-straight appearance at the NCAA outdoor meet, coming off a third-place effort in the shot put a year ago.
After falling a few steps behind the lead pack in the late stages of the grueling 10,000-meter race, Millhouse turned on the jets on the final lap, passing nearly five competitors down the homestretch to finish in 33:56.25 – the second-fastest effort of her career. Millhouse stole the final qualifying spot to the NCAA Championships in a hotly contested finish, which saw less than eight seconds between first and 12th finishers. The trip to Des Moines will be her first-career appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Finals.
Duncan and Britton, who were also NCAA outdoor participants in 2010, were sensational in qualifying, each turning in heat victories in the 400-meter hurdles, earning automatic-advancement positions for Friday’s quarterfinals. Britton would turn in a heat-winning time of 58.10 — the fourth-fastest time of the day – while Duncan crossed first in 58.13 — the fifth-best effort of the afternoon. The Nittany Lion duo will be back again tomorrow, with the 400 hurdle quarterfinal set to run at 7 p.m. Friday evening.
Iheoma would also capture a heat victory in the sprints, speeding away from the rest of the field down the home stretch, to finish in 54.34 – the sixth-fastest time in qualifying. Iheoma will toe the line again on Friday at 5 p.m., for the 400 quarterfinal.
Foster paced the Nittany Lions in the distances, leading a tactical men’s 1500-meter prelim from wire-to-wire, to record a heat-winning 3:50.06. Foster will race in the 1500 quarterfinals, which are set for 6:45 p.m., on Saturday. Borchers and Loxsom went stride for stride down the homestretch in the men’s 800-meter preliminaries, providing a one-two finish in their first round heat in 1:49.42, and 1:49.61, respectively. The duo will be back in action on Friday evening.
Senior Maura Ryan (Doylestown, Pa.) came up just short of advancement in the women’s 800, finishing 27th overall in 2:08.58 — just .07 seconds off one of the 24 quarterfinal slots. Freshman Bekka Simko (Mentor, Ohio) also suffered a near miss in qualifying, placing 32nd in 2:09.13.
Coming within an eyelash of a trip to Des Moines was junior Jocelyn Witmer (Lancaster, Pa.), who tied her season-best clearance in the women’s pole vault, finishing at 12-07.50 (3.85). After tying for third in her flight, the qualification spots were determined by number of misses. Witmer had made 12-7.50 on her second attempt.
Also competing for the Nittany Lions were senior Bianca Fung (North Babylon, N.Y.), and sophomores Sean Reilly (LaGrangeville, N.Y.) and Eli Skinner (Jersey Shore), who came up shy of advancing to the next round of their respective events.
Fung came within just three centimeters of earning three more attempts in the women’s long jump, placing 18th overall in the competition with a leap of 19-8 (5.99). The top 16 performers were given three more attempts to earn one of the top 12 NCAA-qualifying positions.
Reilly would tie for 38th in his first career NCAA appearance, topping out at 6-7 (2.01) in the men’s high jump. Skinner – also in his first East Region competition – turned in a 39th-place effort in the men’s javelin, going 190-10 (58.16).
Action picks back up on Friday, beginning with the women’s javelin at noon.