Fifty-two BYU track and field athletes account for a meet-high total of 58 entries competing in the 2018 NCAA West Preliminary Round in Sacramento, California, on May 24-26.
“We’ve got the second-most men’s entries (34) and seventh-most women’s entries (24),” BYU head coach Ed Eyestone said. “This is the first round of the NCAAs and the whole purpose is to advance onto the finals. I think this Thursday, Friday and Saturday we’re going to have some great performances advancing athletes to the championship meet.”
The top-12 finishers in each event at the NCAA West Prelims will advance to the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 6-9, in Eugene, Oregon. The Cougars, based on current rankings, have 20 entries ranked in the top 12 in their respective events.
The No. 7 BYU men’s team heads into the meet with 14 athletes, including six All-Americans, earning top-12 seeds. Matt Owens (No. 2), All-American Daniel Carney (No. 4), Clayson Shumway (No. 5) and All-American Jacob Heslington (No. 7) are competing in the 3,000m steeplechase. All-American Connor McMillan (No. 2), All-American Clayton Young (No. 4), All-American Rory Linkletter (No. 5) and Connor Mantz (No. 10) rank top 10 in the 10,000m.
Young (No. 5), Linkletter (No. 7), McMillan (No. 8) and Carney (No. 10) also hold top-10 rankings in the 5,000m. Teammates Scott Mecham (No. 10) in the 400m hurdles and All-American Abraham Alvarado in the 800m rank top 12 in their respective events.
For the BYU women’s team, All-American Brenna Porter ranks No. 6 in the 400m hurdles and All-American Andrea Stapleton-Johnson ranks No. 4 in the high jump. Ashton Riner (No. 12) in the javelin, Maddie Cannon (No. 11) in the 3,000m steeplechase, along with both All-American Madelyn Dickson (No. 10) and Anna Camp (No. 12) in the 1,500m, round out the Cougars ranked in the top 12.
All-American Kevin Nielsen already punched his ticket to compete in the decathlon at the NCAA Championships after scoring 7,475 points at the Robison Invitational. Instead of hosting a preliminary round, the NCAA advances the top 24 declared decathletes and heptathletes straight to the finals.
Eyestone is excited at the prospect of potentially having more than 20 athletes advance to the NCAA Championship meet, but he recognized that the rankings don’t come with any guarantees.
“It comes down to the actual performance,” said Eyestone. “The slate is clean going into regionals. Even though you might be ranked in the top 12, you still have to get it done in this meet to advance to nationals.”
The BYU coach expects that there will be Cougar athletes that outperform their rank to finish in a qualifying position for the NCAA Championships. Besides the sheer number of BYU track and field athletes competing, Eyestone predicts that his team’s experience will lead to a good number of qualifiers.
“Across the board, I think three-fourths of our athletes competing have participated in regionals before,” Eyestone said. “As you’ve been here before, you gain experience and you’re not as intimidated the next go-around. At the end of the day, I think we can advance a lot of athletes to the national meet.”
The full list of qualifying BYU track and field athletes can be found on byucougars.com. The NCAA West Prelims will be streamed live on FloTrack.org, or follow @BYUTFXC on Twitter for live updates. Live stats and the meet schedule can be found on NCAA.com.