LUBBOCK, Texas (Texas Tech Press Release) – The NCAA West Preliminaries came to a close Saturday at a bustling McDonnell Field in Arkansas with Texas Tech pushing a final three individual qualifiers along with Lady Raider 4x400 relay to the finals of the NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Overall, Tech qualified in 11 events across three full days of competition for the national championship meet set for June 11-14 in Eugene, Oregon. The field is highlighted by Kennedy Kithuka (5,000m and 10,000m), Kole Weldon (shot put and discus) and Cierra White (100m and 200m) who each put together qualifying efforts in multiple events.
“I’m thrilled that our athletes who came in ranked high made it through,” Texas Tech head coach Wes Kittley said. “They have been very consistent all year long. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get a few others that we were hoping for, but it’s a tough meet.”
Kithuka, the Big 12 Performer of the Year, carried momentum from a historic performance at the Big 12 Championships into Fayetteville where he completed the long distance sweep with a convincing victory in Saturday’s 5,0000m. The performance came after winning Thursday’s 10,000m run with an NCAA West Preliminary meet record time of 29:05.77.
Beneath the lights of John McDonnell Field Saturday, the senior jumped out to an early lead and controlled the pace for the opening 4,000m. With command of the race, Kithuka pulled ahead late and cruised across the finish line in a facility record time of 13:37.95 – five seconds ahead of second place finisher Lawi Lalang of Arizona. He also edged out 2013 NCAA Cross Country Champion Edward Cheserek of Oregon who finished fifth.
Kithuka’s time broke the previous facility record of 13:52.17 – a mark that had stood since 2006.
“What a phenomenal field it was,” Kittley said. “To me, all of the top guys were in that race. I just felt like he ran incredible in the two races that he had this weekend.”
Teammate Kole Weldon opened Saturday’s competition in the men’s discus where he finished 11th in the competition to punch his second ticket of the weekend to Eugene. His best throw came in the preliminaries on his first attempt of the afternoon – a heave of 56.92-meters (186’-9”).
Weldon finished sixth in the shot put Thursday and is making his third-straight trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. The Big 12 High-Point Scorer finished third in the shot put at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships and runner-up at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships. He is Tech’s first All-American in the event, and will be seeking his first All-America honor in the discus.
Sophomore Lady Raider Le’Tristan Pledger went on to secure her second-straight trip to Eugene in the 100m hurdles with a strong clean effort. The Kansas City native finished second in her heat and fifth overall with a time of 13.06 – the second fastest time in Tech history behind her school record of 12.93.
“I thought she had a good race,” Kittley said. “She got out very well and just really maintained her composure all the way through.”
Texas Tech has now sent at least one men’s or women’s hurdler to the NCAA Championships in 10-straight outdoor seasons dating back to 2004.
The Lady Raider 4x400 relay team consisting of Montenae Roye-Speight, Amoy Blake, Tiffany Tarver and White, brought the meet to a close with a strong performance finishing third in their heat and seventh overall with a time of 3:32.72 – their second-fastest time of the season.
The Lady Raider 4x400 relay team will make its fifth-straight appearance at the NCAA Championships.
For the first time since 2009, the Lady Raiders failed to qualify a 4x100 relay team to the NCAA Championships. The squad, which entered the meet with the No. 15 seed time, finished 16th with a time of 45.01.
The 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships are scheduled for June 11-14 at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFIERS (EUGENE, ORE. JUNE 11-14)
Kennedy Kithuka – Men’s 5,000m
Kennedy Kithuka – Men’s 10,000m
Bradley Adkins – Men’s High Jump
JaCorian Duffield –Men’s High Jump
Kole Weldon – Men’s Shot Put
Kole Weldon – Men’s Discus
Cierra White – Women’s 100m
Cierra White – Women’s 200m
Le’Tristan Pledger – Women’s 100H
Hannah Carson – Women’s Javelin *
Women’s 4x400 Relay
Montenae Roye-Speight, Amoy Blake
Tiffany Tarver, Cierra White