Tech set up well for weekend after day one of NCAA West Preliminary.



SACRAMENTO, Calif. –The Red Raiders qualified six for nationals – plus several for quarterfinal races to be held later this weekend – on a successful opening day at the NCAA West Preliminary in Sacramento.

Tech gained a big boost by qualifying all three long jumpers for the national meet. Charles Brown led the way, jumping 25’-4.25” (7.74m) to place fifth. He was directly followed by Justin Hall, who advanced out of the NCAA West Preliminary this year after missing nationals last year. The junior jumped 25’-3.25” (7.70m) and placed sixth just under two inches behind Brown. In 10th place was Odaine Lewis, who will return to nationals after taking bronze in his first Division I championship last year.

“Having all three guys advance to Austin was certainly the goal,” said associate head coach James Thomas. “But seeing it become a reality allows a split second to take a deep breath and simply appreciate it. Our number one goal in every event is to advance.”

Also under Thomas’ watch, Zarriea Willis qualified for nationals with a 10th-place effort in the high jump. The senior, who won the indoor national championship, had a top clearance of 5’-8.75” (1.75m) in a field in which nobody went over six feet.

Brandon Bray and Drew McMichael claimed two national pole vault spots for Tech, but not without hard work. The two cleared 17’-5” (5.31m), but could not get over 17’-7” (5.36m). Failure to do so left them tied for 10thwith two vaulters from Texas A&M, meaning the four would need to enter a jump-off for the final three bids to Austin.

“It’s extremely nerve-wracking when you have four guys fighting for three spots,” McMichael said. “You usually just jump against yourself, but in this meet you’re jumping against 24 other guys and fighting for one of those national spots.”

“You either clear the bar or you don’t,” said volunteer assistant coach Tom Slagle. “I think we were in a good position, but it got down to where you just have to go compete. You’ve got to go clear that next bar.”

The bar was lowered back down to 5.31m, which Bray cleared on his first attempt. McMichael knocked the bar off on his way over the first time around, but on the second he went over cleanly. Both Aggie jumpers missed, automatically giving Bray and McMichael the green light to nationals.

“You always want to PR,” McMichael said of the height he and Bray left with. “But that’s not this kind of meet. I found myself trying to advance and that’s what I did. It didn’t go the way we wanted, but we still got the same result and we’re going to Austin so that’s all that matters.”

On the track, Divine Oduduru and Andrew Hudson booked spots in the quarterfinals of the 100m on Friday. The former did so with ease, gliding through the finish with a 10.17 to win his heat. The next heat went more the same for Hudson, who eased up at the end while still turning in a 10.27 to win his heat.

Two more Red Raiders earned quarterfinal bids in the 800m. Vincent Crisp ran a 1:50.67 to win his heat and earn an automatic bid to run Friday. Jonah Koech ran in a slow heat as well, where it took a big push to finish with a 1:51.17. Regardless of time, though, both went through to the quarters.

The quarter-hurdles also saw two Red Raiders advance to Friday – one from each the men’s and women’s team. Norman Grimes Jr. cruised to a win in his heat by running a 50.49, crossing with plenty of space between himself and the field. Representing the women’s side in the 400m hurdles will be Alaysha Johnson, whose 58.59 was enough to grab her one of the six at-large bids available.

Texas Tech’s second day of the NCAA West Preliminary is set to begin at noon PT Friday.


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