LEXINGTON, Ky. - Five Kentucky individuals and the men’s 4x400 relay team are headed to the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the NCAA announced Tuesday evening. The NCAA Championships take place June 6-9 at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex in Sacramento, Calif.
Each of UK’s participants were automatic qualifiers that reached the NCAA Championships by finishing in the top five of their events (The top five individuals qualified along with the top three relay teams at each regional site) at the NCAA Mideast Regional last week at Columbia, Mo.
“I am pleased with the way people competed the last day of regionals,” UK head coach Don Weber said. “I am a little disappointed that some of the people that were capable of competing at a championship level didn’t compete daringly enough at regionals to qualify, but we are excited for the athletes that made it to the NCAAs. Our goal is for each of them to compete to the best of their abilities and let everything else take care of itself.”
The men’s 4x400 relay team, which entered the NCAA Mideast Regional ranked fourth in the nation, made a statement by knocking off No. 2 LSU for the first time in regional history. The relay team, consisting of Nathan Browning (Petersburg, Ill.) Jose Acevedo (Caracas, Venezuela), Justin Harrison (Wheaton, Ill.) and Luis Luna (Barquisimeto, Venezuela), which finished second in the nation at the 2007 NCAA Indoor Meet and second at last year’s Mideast Regional, finished in a time of 3:04.49. Luna was trailing two competitors at the start of the anchor leg, but came on strong around the turn and ran a gutsy 100 meters to take the win. Prior to that feat, LSU had never lost in the 4x400 relay in the previous four years of the NCAA Mideast Regional.
Luna also qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 400-meter dash. After notching a collegiate-best time of 46.15 in Friday’s preliminaries, which ties for the second-fastest time in school history, Luna ran a 46.17 in the finals to qualify nationally.
Junior mid-distance runner John Richardson (Ocean City, N.J.) has claimed back-to-back Southeastern Conference 1,500-meter titles and won the 2007 NCAA Mideast Regional Championship. He finished regionals in a time of 3:44.44 and captured the SEC title in a personal-best time of 3:43.02, which ranks eighth all-time at UK.
Standout freshman sprinter Jenna Martin (Nova Scotia, Canada), who in the preliminaries set the rookie school record in the 400 meter, returned to run a time of 53.05 in the finals and finish in fourth place to punch her ticket to Sacramento.
Sophomore thrower Ashley Muffet (North Canton, Ohio) rebounded from a difficult first day at the NCAA Mideast Regional and came through with a decisive final throw in the discus to advance to the NCAA Championships. Her personal-best toss of 170-0 in that event placed her second all-time in school history.
Senior thrower Gavin Ball (Cottage Grove, Wisc.) rallied to record the sixth-best toss in school history in the shot put with a throw of 59-5.0 to advance to the NCAA Championships.
Complete coverage of Kentucky’s participation in the NCAA Championships will be available on ukathletics.com along with the UKathletics Live Blog from Sacramento.