FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Texas Tech Press Release) – The Texas Tech track and field program officially opened competition Thursday at the NCAA West Preliminaries, and it didn’t take long for the No. 5 Red Raiders and No. 15 Lady Raiders to impress.
Tech saw three athletes punch tickets to the national championship finals next month in Eugene while an additional three moved onto Friday’s quarterfinals. The crew of national qualifiers includes Kennedy Kithuka, who won the 10,000-meter nightcap in record fashion, along with teammate Kole Weldon in the shot put and Lady Raider sophomore Hannah Carson in the javelin.
“We were counting on those three and they really came through.” Texas Tech head coach Wes Kittley said.
Kithuka, as he has done so often throughout his career, capped off the evening with an impressive tactical effort in the final men’s race of the day. The two-time Big 12 Champion pulled away from the field late before crossing the finish line in 29 minutes 5.77 seconds – one second ahead of 2013 NCAA Cross Country Champion Edward Cheserek of Oregon who made a late push in the final stretch of the race.
The time broke the previous NCAA West Preliminary record of 29:11.44 set in 2011 by Elliot Heat of Stanford and ranks No. 4 on the all-time Texas Tech performance list.
“Kennedy was just fantastic again,” Kittley said. “It was great to see him break that record.”
Earlier on the field, Carson opened Thursday’s competition with a victory in the women’s javelin throw to secure her second-straight trip to the NCAA Championships. Carson launched a throw of 53.17-meters (174’-5”) on her first attempt of the final flight. The mark ranks No. 3 all-time on the Texas Tech performance list and won the competition by more than four feet.
“It was really great to see Hannah get that on her first throw,” Kittley said.
The Red Raiders’ first national qualifying effort came by way of Weldon in the shot put who finished sixth in the competition. The Big 12 High Point Scorer let loose a heave of 19.29-meters (63’-3.50”) on his third attempt in the preliminaries to secure his spot among the top-16 of Thursday’s finals.
The mark propelled him from outside the field of 16, up to fourth in the competition. Weldon would foul on his next three tries in the finals, but his preliminary mark – which ranks No. 6 on the Texas Tech all-time performance list – proved to be enough as the Big 12 Runner-Up will make his second-straight trip to Eugene as one of 12 finalists in the shot put. He finished third in the shot put at the national meet in 2013 and entered the West Preliminaries with the No. 5 mark in the region.
Weldon will also compete in the discus throw on Saturday – an event he qualified for in 2011 as a freshman.
Meanwhile on the track, three Tech athletes qualified out of the first round and into Friday’s quarterfinals of the running events.
Junior Lady Raider Cierra White won her heat and finished 10th overall in the women’s 100m dash with a time of 11.59 seconds into a light headwind. The Philadelphia native automatically qualifies for Friday’s quarterfinals, and will look to make her second straight trip to the NCAA Championships in the event after finishing sixth overall at the national meet in 2013 as a sophomore. The 100m quarterfinal race is set for 6:45 p.m. with the top-12 finishers advancing to the national meet.
“She just looked good,” Kittley said. “Her time wasn’t great, but in this meet it’s all head-to-head. You’re just trying to get in that top-12 because that’s all that matters.”
White is also scheduled to run in the first round of the 200m Friday with the race scheduled for an 8:45 p.m. start.
Moments later, sophomore Red Raider Joseph Richards III turned in a strong race in the first round of the men’s 400m dash. The Big 12 Runner-Up finished second in the opening heat with a time of 46.30 to automatically qualify for Friday’s quarterfinals. He was followed by Montenae Roye-Speight in the women’s 400m who finished 19th overall and fourth in her heat with a time of 53.46 to also move onto Friday’s quarterfinals.
The men's 400m quarterfinals are scheduled for 6 p.m. followed by the women's at 6:15.
“She ran a smart race and really came on strong,” Kittley said.
Tech will continue competition at the NCAA West Preliminaries Friday at John McDonnell Field. Field events begin at 10 a.m. with events on the track beginning at 5 p.m. Live results from the meet can be found by visiting FlashResults.com
“We still have a lot of opportunities tomorrow,” Kittley said. “We had a lot of good things today, but we have another really big day tomorrow.”
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS (EUGENE, ORE. JUNE 11-14)
Kole Weldon – Men’s Shot Put
Hannah Carson – Women’s Javelin
Kennedy Kithuka – Men’s 10,000
QUALIFIED FOR QUARTERFINALS -TO BE CONTESTED FRIDAY
Cierra White – Women’s 100m
Joseph Richards III – Men’s 400m
Montenae Roye-Speight – Women’s 400m