UK Track & Field sending 22 Wildcats to NCAA Outdoor Championships

Courtesy: UK Athletics
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WKYT) -- Eleven more Kentucky Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday on the final day of the East Prelims at North Florida's Hodges Stadium.

UK’s total through the three-day meet ended up on 22 (13 women’s, nine men’s) entries that earned top-12 places at the meet to move on to compete at the NCAA Championships finals site in Austin, Texas -- June 5-8.

Saturday qualifiers

Southeastern Conference 110-meter hurdles Champion Daniel Roberts ran the second fastest time in NCAA Championships history (East Prelims count as any other prelim of the broader NCAA Outdoor Championships for record keeping purposes) to get a big Q in 13.13Q while easing across the finish line after clearing the last hurdle.

Freshman Tai Brown lowered the UK freshman record he broke at SECs in getting a big Q time 13.57Q (+1.3). He moved to No. 3 on the UK all-time performers list.

Florida’s Grant Holloway ran 13.10 in the same quarterfinal heat as Brown – the new NCAA Championships meet record. Roberts and Holloway both ran 13.07 – second fastest in collegiate history and .07 off the CR at SECs with Roberts’ time coming in the final for the win.

Noah Castle qualified for his second event of the NCAA Championships – the shot put – on Saturday after making it in the discus alongside teammate Charles Lenford Jr. on Friday. His mark of 63’5”/19.33m Q was fourth best from East Prelims. The senior qualified for NCAAs in both events for the second year in a row.

Lenford Jr. placed 14th with a mark of 61’1.25”/18.62m and freshman Josh Sobota was 15th with a collegiate PB 61’0.25”/18.62m as two notable narrow misses.

Senior Marie-Josée Ebwea-Bile Excel, an NCAA medalist each of the past two years outdoors, advanced out of East Prelims for the third year in a row. Her mark of 44’8.75”/13.63m Q was second best out of the east.

Rahman Minor made NCAAs in the high jump with an outdoor-season best clearance at 7’2.25”/2.19m Q, which moved him to No. 5 on the UK outdoor all-time list. He was sixth in qualifying.

UK’s men’s and women’s 4x100m relays started the day by advancing on to Austin. The UK women’s 4x1 of Celera Barnes, Abby Steiner, Janie O’Connor and Kianna Gray ran 43.26Q, just off the season best they ran en route to SEC bronze two weeks ago. They finished as No. 2 qualifiers out of the east to earn the preferred lane in the semifinals that will go along with the big Q.

UK’s men’s 4x1 of Roberts, Dwight St. Hillaire, Nathaniel Bann and Jacob Smith ran 39.56 to earn the last big Q in their heat and qualify for NCAAs for the second year in a row.

Faith Ross qualified on to Austin in the women’s 100m hurdles with a time of 12.97wQ (+2.3), sixth fastest of the quarterfinals. Ross made NCAAs in both the 100H and the 400H alongside freshman teammate Masai Russell, who was 17th in the straight hurdles QF (13.35w +2.3).

Freshman SEC 200m silver medalist Steiner was third fastest qualifier of the quarters, running 22.66Q (+1.8). Gray, who qualified for the 100m on Friday, missed the last 200m q spot by .001 seconds finishing 13th in 23.10 (.093) (+1.8).

Kentucky’s women’s 4x4 of Faith Ross, Chloe Abbott, Abby Steiner and Kianna Gray ran 3:31.56 to get a big Q, fourth fastest out of the east.

UK’s men’s 4x4 of St. Hillaire, Bann, Roberts and Smith got a big Q out of the first of three quarterfinal heats, running 3:08.16Q.

The nine Friday qualifiers
Chloe Abbott continued to display scintillating quarter-mile form, lowering her personal best for the second day running and coming out of East Prelims as top qualifier. Her 400m time of 51.32Q improved her No. 2 mark on the UK all-time list.

Senior SEC silver medalist Kianna Gray made NCAAs in the 100m for the fourth year in a row, running 11.27Q (+0.3), eighth best of the prelims. Celera Barnes made it to the NCAA Finals site in the 100m for the second year in a row, running 11.35q (+0.7), 10th best of the round.

Faith Ross and Masai Russell each lowered their PBs and respective Nos. 4 and 5 marks on the UK all-time 400m hurdles list en route to booking spots on the plane to NCAAs in Austin. Ross ran 56.71Q, third best of the quarters, and Russell was eighth fastest in 57.34.

Charles Lenford Jr. punched a ticket for his first NCAA trip in the men’s discus with a toss of 190’10”/58.09m Q (fifth place).

Noah Castle improved his PB by six inches with a mark of 190’7”/58.09m Q, which improved his No. 9 mark on the UK all-time list and got him the No. 7 NCAA Championships qualifying place. The senior made NCAAs in the discus for the second year in a row.

Elijah Marta got the last men’s javelin qualification spot, with a mark of 216’9”/66.07m Q (12th place). He qualified for the second year in a row.

Dwight St. Hillaire got a small q to advance to NCAAs in the men’s 400m for a second year in a row with a time of 45.89, ninth best of the quarterfinals.

Thursday qualifiers

Ellen Ekholm as well as Matt Peare advanced to the NCAA Finals site as banner carriers for the Kentucky on Thursday.

Six more Wildcats advanced from the first round into quarterfinal races that ran Friday.

Ekholm earned one of the East Prelims’ 12 available places in the NCAA Outdoor Championships (finals site) high jump field in Austin, Texas. She cleared at 5’10.75”/1.80m on her second attempt after getting over on first tries at 5’7” and 5’8.75”. At that point she was tied for fourth and the field was already whittled down to the 12 who earned their trips to NCAAs so they stopped jumping.

The junior made the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the third year in a row.

Peare cleared an outdoor PB 17’5”/5.31m on his second attempt, which was enough be amoung the 12 men’s pole vaulters remaining and stop jumping while tied for seventh with just one miss on his first attempt at that height. The sophomore made the NCAA Championships for the first time.

He moved to No. 2 on the UK outdoor all-time PV list, a half an inch from the outdoor school record. His indoor PB is 2.75” higher, achieved at the SEC Indoor Championships earlier this year, is the absolute (indoor/outdoor) school record.