NAPERVILLE, Ill. - Although the weekend was scheduled to be free of competition for the Ashford University track and field team, the Saints took one final opportunity to compete on Friday, May 11, in hopes of punching more tickets to Nationals.
A large field of teams greeted Ashford at Jay and Dot Buikema Track, the site of the Dr. Keeler Invitational, hosted by North Central College. Two more AU individuals and a relay team locked up their bids to the NAIA event coming up at the end of the month. In addition, four school records were broken.
"We took a small group, but I we had many solid performance across the board," said Head Coach Chris Adams. "I was very happy with our performances."
Two "A" automatic standards were surpassed on the men's side. Willow Springs, Ill. racer Christian Awah posted the 17th best time in the nation, 14.62, in the 110-meter hurdles. Awah took third overall in the field of 43 runners which was won by a NCAA Division I competitor, while breaking a school record which he set in 2010.
"This was the race that Christian has been looking for all season," said Adams. "He was able to put together a great race heading into Nationals."
The second "A" qualifier came in the triple jump event when Emmanuel Panchol, of Rockford, Ill., leapt to a mark of 14.35 meters which placed him second at the meet. The jump tied for the 22nd best in the NAIA this season and broke an AU record which had stood since 2006.
"Emmanuel has been so close to qualifying all season," added Adams. "He took full advantage of this being a 'last chance' meet, and hit the two best jumps of his career."
Teammate Fuad Agoro placed eighth overall in the same event which a jump of 13.43 meters.
On the women's side, the 4x400-meter relay team fueled by Myelle Vann, Alexus Harrison, Myra Nichols and Nkemdilim Okwumabua lowered the AU record at their third consecutive meet when they posted a time of 3:55.39, finishing fourth overall. The stopwatch read a time which surpasses NAIA "B" standards and a new school record.
"It was worth the wait to watch the girls run at midnight," quipped Adams. "They ran inspired, aiming for the 'A' standard, and not just settling for the 'B.' "
Nichols went on to set a new school record in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 1:05.58, placing her 11th overall while Okwumabua took 12th in a time of 1:06.78.
Other notable performances:
Jeremy Miller, seventh in the men's 400-meter hurdles, 54.28.
Panchol, eighth in the men's high jump, 1.96 meters.
Women's 4x100-meter relay team (Nichols, Laura Minertz, Harrison, Vann), third with a time of 48.92.
Up next, the Saints turn their attention to the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Nationals hosted in Marian, Ind. by Indiana Wesleyan University. The three day event starts Thursday, May 24 and wraps up on Saturday, May 26.