DES MOINES, Iowa -- It was a good opening day for the Sam Houston State Bearkats at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Wednesday in Des Moines, Iowa, with a pair of athletes advancing out of the prelims.
Lane Dennis and Dess Meek both extended their stay at the national championship with strong performances on the opening day. Dennis advanced in the 400-meter hurdles while Meek is in the finals in the high jump. The other athlete to compete for Sam Houston State on Wednesday was hammer thrower Chris Cralle who finished 24th.
This just shows we have such committed and talented athletes, said head coach Curtis Collier. They have come to the championship with the mindset they belong here and they are going to compete here. It is sometimes hard to come to the biggest stage and perform like that.
Dennis ran a personal-best time and school record 50.58 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles to get to the semifinals. The top two finishers in each heat automatically advance to the semifinals and then the next six best times move on as well. Dennis ran in the first heat of the event and had to wait until four more heats were run before he knew for sure he had advanced. His qualifying time was 12th overall.
I wasn't really worried about it, Dennis said about having to wait to see if he would get in. I was in a heat with some smoking guys. I wasn't real worried about it and I felt good when I got in the blocks. When it was over I knew I had run a good race and had a good chance to move on. I'm glad I am not going home on the first day. It makes it worth coming up here.
There will be two heats of eight run on Thursday with the top three in each heat plus two more runners moving on to the finals. The top qualifier was Jeshua Anderson, a freshman from Washington State who ran a time of 49.90.
Dennis' previous best was a run of 50.63 seconds in the finals of the Southland Conference Championship where he won gold.
Meek followed up her high jump championship last week at the NCAA Midwest Regional with another strong performance in the national championship. Meek cleared 5-foot-9 ¾ to advance to Friday's final.
What she didn't realize, was it came on her last jump of the competition. Meek, the final athlete to jump in last round of the event had no clue her fate rested on her last attempt.
I was very surprised, the freshman from Newton said. I had no idea I had that much pressure going into my last jump. I didn't know if I didn't clear the bar that I wasn't going to move on.
Wednesday's results will now be wiped clear and everyone will start over again for the finals. Meek will be one of 16 athletes fighting for a national championship on Friday.
It is going to be nerve racking, she said about having to wait until Friday to jump again. Hopefully I will go in and do my best. If I can go and just jump what I did at regional I will be happy.
Cralle, has had an interesting last couple of days. He didn't find out until Sunday he was going to get to throw in the national championship after another thrower had to pull out of the competition because of an injury. He entered with the No. 26 mark of all the competitors and moved up two spots with his throw of 191-4.
Because he didn't think he was going to compete this past weekend, Cralle has not thrown since the Midwest Regional two weeks ago. His throw was 12 feet shorted than his personal best, and Cralle said he did feel the effect of not throwing this week.
It was weird not throwing all week and then coming out here, and I think it did affect me, Cralle said. I was glad to get the opportunity to be here, though. It was pretty exciting getting the chance to compete against the best.