DES MOINES, Iowa. --The Drake Track and Field program will send eight athletes to the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds May 24-26 in Austin, Texas, according to the list of accepted entries released by the NCAA today. The eight will look to earn spots at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship held at Drake Stadium June 6-9.
The eight members, five men and three women, is double the amount that represented the Blue and White a year ago and is the most since the current format was adopted in 2010. Additionally, five of the eight advancing are school record-holders.
"I am very proud of our athletes and their respective coaches," commented head coach Natasha Brown. "Coach Dan Hostager, Mark Kostek and Kevin Henderson have invested a lot of time and energy with the hope of having this opportunity to compete in Austin and hopefully return home to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships."
Junior Kevin Harp (Iowa City, Iowa) and sophomore Phillip Beeler (Lenexa, Kan.) will get things started for the Drake squad on Thursday May 24 in the men's javelin. Competition at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas will begin at 11 a.m. Harp holds the school record in javelin with a throw of 209 feet 1 inch which he set at the Drake Relays. Beeler's best throw of the season of 208 feet 7 inches came at the 2012 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championship on May 11 en route to a third-place finish.
"I am thrilled that the season continues for Kevin and Phillip," stated Kostek. "This year has been a challenge for both of them as they have dealt with nagging injuries all year. Both athletes are finally healthy and if their training indicates future performance, we could see big throws next week. They have the tools and the ability to achieve at a high level."
Four-time MVC champion senior Jon DeGrave (Lake Villa, Ill.) makes his third straight appearance in the preliminary round in the 400-meter hurdles as the school record-holder in the event looks to advance to the NCAA Championships on the blue oval. The first round of the men's 400-meter hurdles kicks off on Thursday, May 24 at 4:30 p.m. Last year, DeGrave snared one of the 12 coveted spots from the preliminary rounds to compete at Drake Stadium in the NCAA Championship, where he finished 20th and earned honorable mention All-America accolades.
Fellow senior hurdler Ari Curtis (Fort Collins, Colo.) makes her second appearance at the preliminary level in the 400-meter hurdles, which takes place at 5 p.m. on May 24. In 2010, Curtis set the school record of 57.89 at the NCAA Championship to claim a 10th-place showing and competed at the USA National Championships later that year.
The distance duo of junior Charlie Lapham (Golden Valley, Minn.) and sophomore Omet Kak (Des Moines, Iowa) will represent the Bulldogs in the men's 1500 at 5:30 p.m. on May 24. This marks Lapham's first trip to the preliminary round, while Kak advanced to the preliminary round last year in the 1500. Lapham earned all-conference honors last weekend with a second-place finish in the 1500-meter race.
Junior Kirsten Lake (Parker, Colo.), after winning the 1500-meters last weekend in a school record time of 4:23.75 at the conference meet, will partake in the women's 1500 at 6 p.m. on May 24. Lake has enjoyed a breakout season this outdoor campaign as she came close to shattering the 1500 record during the Drake Relays, and this marks her first trip to the preliminary round.
Junior Marissa Smith (Ajax, Ontario) will see her first action of the preliminary round on Friday, May 25 at 5:30 p.m. in the women's 100-meter hurdles. Smith won the conference title last weekend in a school-record time of 13.57. This marks Smith's first appearance in the preliminary round in her Drake career.
"It's great to see these kids get the opportunity for the preliminary rounds of the national championship," Hostager said. "They have worked extremely hard all year. This group has their sights set much higher and won't be content just getting there."
For each individual event contested at each of the Championship Preliminary Round sites, the top 48 declared student-athletes are accepted into the competition.
Advancing to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships is achieved through performance in the Preliminary Round competition at each site. Twelve competitors from each individual event and a minimum of eight teams from each relay event move on from each Preliminary Round site to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Austin, Texas, serves as the site for the West Preliminary Rounds, while Jacksonville, Fla., is the site for the East Preliminary Rounds.
For ticket information for the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium June 6-9, visit www.godrakebulldogs.com or call the Drake Athletics ticket office at 515-271-DOGS.