Track and Field Nets 21 NCAA East Preliminary Qualifiers
May 17, 2012
GREENVILLE, N.C. - A banner year for the East Carolina track and field program will continue next week as 21 Pirates earned qualification to the NCAA East Preliminary Round. The event is scheduled for May 24-26 at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. The University of North Florida will serve as the host institution.
The top 48 declared athletes and top 24 relay teams in each event in the East Region booked spots in the preliminary and will battle for berths to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
"We look forward to advancing as many athletes as possible to the NCAA Outdoor Championships," head coach Curt Kraft said. "There is a great diversity not only in the number of events, but in the number of individuals we have competing. It's a testimonial to the overall strength of the program and how far it has come in the last five or six years."
The ECU contingent is the largest in a single season in program history, eclipsing the 15 who competed in last year's preliminary. A total of 12 individual Conference USA champions will compete for East Carolina, including 2012 C-USA men's Performer of the Meet Dennis Aliotta. The senior broke the program and league record in the shot put, recording a mark of 19.39 meters which is the nation's current 13th best effort.
Junior All-America Tynita Butts is participating in her third career NCAA Preliminary Round in the high jump. She is the three-time defending league outdoor champion in the event and owns the country's second-highest mark at 1.87 meters. Butts finished fourth at last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships and is a national title contender. She is joined by league hammer champion and senior Kim Kanala, who is participating in her second career preliminary.
The women's 4x400 relay tandem of sophomore All-America Aiesha Goggins, junior Tiffany Harris and sophomores Tania Minkins and Tyshonda Hawkins is entering the event with the 2012 C-USA outdoor crown and looks to qualify for its second-straight national meet. The ladies currently own the East Region's 12th-fastest time at 3:36.92.
The Pirates sport another national title contender in senior Brittany Copeland, who put up a time of 16:09.67 at the Raleigh Relays in March. It was the nation's fastest time at that point in the season. Rounding out the women's qualifiers are senior Rebecca Cooper and sophomore Krista Vincent, who will both compete in the javelin.
On the men's side, junior Montrell Morrow will participate in the discus and hammer as he enters the preliminary with the region's eighth-best hammer mark of 64.57 meters. That effort earned him the C-USA title. Aliotta will also take part in the hammer and is currently 19th in the region.
The league champion 4x100 relay squad, consisting of junior Quinton Harley, sophomore Desmond Lawrence and juniors Austin Lewis and Antonial Marshall, posted a time of 40.41 in New Orleans to earn its spot. Harley also captured the crown in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking in at 51.28 for the region's 17th-best time.
After suffering a season-ending injury midway through last season's outdoor campaign, junior Matthew McConaughey took second at the C-USA Outdoor Championships in the javelin with a mark of 67.95 meters and easily qualified for the preliminary. Senior Sam Barnhardt will also compete in the event, marking the first time in his career he has participated in a NCAA event.
Making his second career appearance in the preliminary is junior Drew Kanz O'Shea, the league's 2012 bronze medalist, while juniors Joseph Samuels (110 hurdles) and Stephen Hodapp (pole vault), as well as sophomore Jakub Trzasalski (800-meter run), will make their NCAA debuts.
Tickets for the 2012 NCAA East Preliminary can be purchased in advance at the UNF Arena ticket office, online, or by phone at 904-620-BIRD (2473). On the day of the meet, tickets will be available at the gate starting one hour prior to event.