The 2009 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships is underway at the John McDonell Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. There are plenty of avenues to follow your Golden Gopher tracksters at this year’s national meet. Gophersports.com will provide live updates throughout the Championships along with video highlights of your Gopher competing. Check out the other links listed above for live video coverage and live results.
Fayetteville has hosted several NCAA Indoor Championships but this is the first outdoor national meet to come to Arkansas, whose nickname is The Natural State. As the 2009 NCAA Outdoor meet begins it feels like mid-August in Minnesota-weather speak 84 degrees but feeling much warmer with 65 percent humidity. A 15 mph wind out of the southwest helps a little.
The Gophers have a total of 12 athletes competing in the NCAA meet this week, six from each the men’s and women’s teams. Wednesday’s action will feature seven of the Gophers beginning their quest for All-America honors.
The first Gopher to compete is decathlete R.J. McGinnis. McGinnis, a junior, is making his second appearance in the NCAAs and is hoping to improve on his 16th-place showing from a year ago. The five events of the decathlon to be contested today are the 100 meters, the long jump, the shot put, the high jump and the 400 meters.
The other Gophers competing today, all in qualifying rounds, are: Aaron Studt in the shot put (3 p.m.), Heather Dorniden and Nikki Swenson in the 800 meters (5:30 p.m.), Alicia Rue in the pole vault (7:15 p.m.), Matt Fisher in the high jump (8 p.m.) and Hassan Mead and Chris Rombough in the 5,000 meters (9:25 p.m.).
R.J. is off to a solid start in the decathlon and sits in seventh place after the first three events. He starts the day with a career-best time of 11.09 seconds in the 100 meters to score 841 points. That time ranked 15th among the 25 decathletes starting the event.
The long jump is the second event of the decathlon. R.J. landed a jump of 22 feet, 11 1/4 inches to finish in a tie for 12th in the event and score 811 points.
R.J. jumped from 12th in the standing after two events up to seventh with a solid outing in the shot put. An effort of 47-8 1/2 scored 761 points. After three events, McGinnis has a total of 2,413.
Next up for the decathletes is the high jump. The high jump is one of the highest scoring events in the decathlon and along with the pole vault, can be a “make it or break it” type of situation.
Aaron Studt was the first Gopher to advance to a final. Studt, the indoor NCAA runner-up in the shot put, heaved the ball a distance of 60-5 3/4 to place himself among the top 12 that will battle it out tomorrow at 6:15 p.m. for the national title. Defending champion Ryan Whiting from Arizona State owned the top qualifying throw of 68-7 1/4.
As Gopher throws coach Lynden Reder put it, “Studt did what he had to do. Nothing fancy.”
One can bet Reder might have had an anxious moment or two during today’s competition. Studt’s first throw of 59-11 3/4 would have squeaked into the final. Aaron’s effort over 60 feet on his third attempt settled the issue.
This is Studt’s second appearance at the NCAA outdoor meet. He did not make it out of prelims a year ago.
The weather has cooled quite a bit with a thick cloud cover threatening rain here at the state of the art Arkansas track facility. An athletic communication aside here...I’ve been in football press box that aren’t as nice. There is enough seating to facilitate every SID that traveled here plus the media. At some point, I’ll post a video of a random race to get you an idea of my view as I’m writing these blogs.
R.J. McGinnis has just completed his first day of the decathlon and stands in 11th place with 3,972 points. His best first-day score was 4,010 at the Drake Relays earlier this year.
McGinnis added his second career best in an individual event by clearing 6-8 3/4 in the high jump. R.J. has now improved his high jump by four inches since his sophomore season. The career leap also propelled him up the decathlon standings, all the way up to a tie for fourth.
Unfortunately, R.J. struggled in the 400 meters clocking a time of 52.37 seconds to fall into the 11th position. The decathlon will continue tomorrow at 2 p.m. with the 110-meter high hurdles.
Oregon’s Ashton Eaton has a commanding lead over the field with an NCAA record first-day total of 4,367 points.
Heather Dorniden breezed into the tomorrow’s semifinal in the 800 meters, winning her heat with a time of 2:05.16. Dorniden took the lead at the break and ran a controlled, comfortable race from the front of the pack.
The video of Dorniden’s race and post-race comments will be posted here shortly.
Nikki Swenson also competed in the 800 meters, appearing in her first career NCAA Track Championships. Running in the second heat, a heat that included top qualifier and NCAA indoor champion Phoebe Wright of Tennessee, Swenson finished seventh in a time of 2:10.08.
Lightning in the Fayetteville area has suspended the NCAA meet. Gophers Alicia Rue in the pole vault and Matt Fisher in the high jump were just about to begin their qualifying rounds when the track was evacuated. The radar is filled with color so it might be a lengthy delay. Stay tuned.
OK, there have been some impressive lightning displays. One clap of thunder actually shook the press box. I just received a call from Gary WIlson and the coaches have been told it could be a 2-hour delay. Could be a long niight. The event affected the most with this is the 5,000 meters. There are several athletes in that race that are doubling in the meet. The other events on hold right now are the pole vault and high jump. It wouldn't be too difficult to move those events to a different day.
The rain has stopped and there is some action on the track but it's only the grounds crew with leaf blower and squegees working on the pole vault, high jump and long jump areas. Looks like we may get this going again. No official word, however.
An announcement has been make that the meet will be resumed at 10:15 p.m. We are waiting to see if this happens but with a 3 hour, 15 minutes delay, the start time of the men's 5,000 meters in which Hassan Mead and Chris Rombough are set to compete could start as late as 12:30 p.m.
The fiield events to be contested yet tonight are all expected to start at 10:15 p.m., meaning Alicia Rue (pole vault) and Matt Fisher (high jump) will be in action.
The picture posted with this update is really the sunset. Well, it might as well be the sunrise. The men's 5,000 meters will begin at 12:40 p.m. Chris Rombough is in the first heat. Hassan Mead will take to the track even later as a competitor in the second heat.
The buzz in the press box right now is about how this delay might affect Oregon Olympian Galen Rupp. Rupp will run in the first heat of the 5,000 and then 21 hours later will to the line in the 10,000-meter run final. Oregon also figures in the men's team title chase so this will be an interesting story lilne to follow.
For now, let's look at our Gopher field event athletes Alicia Rue and Matt Fisher.
Rue is making her third NCAA outdoor appearnace and is seeded third coming in. She has enjoyed an amazing outdoor season clearing 14 feet twice and setting new Minnesota, Big Ten Conference, Big Ten Championships and NCAA Midwest Region Championships records. Rue is a two-time NCAA Indoor All-American, including a national runner-up finish earlier this season.
Somehow is might be fitting that Rue had to endure a weather delay before competing at this NCAA Championships. Why? Well, there was some major drama in getting her pole vault poles down here to Fayetteville from Minneapolis. These days, the pole are shipped ahead of time to the site of the meet. Rue's poles made it as far as Chicago before the shipping slip went missing. The only way to get the poles here in time for today's, now tonight's meet, was to drive them here. So, the poles were put on a truck that drove all night to get here to Fayetteville. The poles arrived here this morning at about 5 a.m.
High jumper Matt Fisher is making his first NCAA outdoor national meet appearance. Fisher made his NCAA debut at the 2009 indoor meet but failed to make a height. Fisher's jump of 7-4 1/2 is tied with three other competitors for the best in the nation this season.
As the midnight hour approaches, there is some good news and some bad news for our Gophers. The good is that Alicia Rue easily qualified for the final in the pole vault. She made all three of her qualifying vaults with her best at 13-5 1/4. The final is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m.
The season ended on a sour note for Matt Fisher in the high jump. After clearing the opening height of 6-8 3/4 on his third attempt, Fisher slipped on his approach injuring his left ankle, on his second attempt at 6-10 3/4. He was forced to withdraw from the compeition
The first day of the NCAA Championships finished on a bright note for the Golden Gophers as Hassan Mead won his heat of the 5,000-meter run in a time of 14:00.79. Mead ran a patient race, hanging with the top six until making his move in the final 800 meters. The Gopher sophomore positioned himself on the outside shoulder of the leader then dashed to the lead in the final 300 meters. The final is on Friday evening. Chris Rombough also competed in the event and ran a time of 14:09.79 but failed to advance.