AUSTIN, Texas - The 400-meter hurdle senior duo of Jon DeGrave (Lake Villa, Ill.) and Ari Curtis (Fort Collins, Colo.) advanced to the semifinals in the event at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds on Thursday at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
DeGrave's time of 52.55 was fourth in his heat to earn the four-time Missouri Valley Conference champion one of the final berths in the semis. The men's semifinals will take place tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. The top three individuals in each heat and the following three best times advance to the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa on June 6-9.
"It was not my best day," DeGrave said. "I did enough to get through and I plan on making some adjustments for tomorrow's race to run a much faster time."
Curtis claimed third place in the fifth heat clocking in at 58.78. The school record holder in the event had the 13th best time in the preliminary round. Curtis will compete in the semis of the women's 400-meter hurdles tomorrow at 7:45 p.m.
"I'm glad to get through today so I can focus on the semifinals," commented Curtis. "It's easy to get wrapped up in the long term goals and lose focus on the next step, so I'm just happy to cross that barrier and move forward."
Sophomore Phillip Beeler (Lenexa, Kan.) set a school record in the men's javelin with a toss of 209 feet 11 inches to finish 20th, while junior Kevin Harp (Iowa City, Iowa) had the 26th best throw in the competition of 201 feet. Neither advanced to the finals as only the top 12 advanced to the finals.
Sophomore Omet Kak (Des Moines, Iowa) had one of the top 24 times in the men's 1500-meter preliminary round clocking in at 3:51.48. However, due to the fact Kak finished eighth in his heat, and only the top five from each heat and the next best four times move on, he did not advance to the semifinals. Junior Charlie Lapham (Golden Valley, Minn.) was ninth in Kak's heat in 3:59.30.
"Omet put in a great effort to nearly qualify for the next round," commented distance coach Dan Hostager. "He's disappointed that he didn't advance, but he put himself in position to win his heat during the last stretch and missed out by just two-tenths of a second."
In the women's 1500, junior Kirsten Lake (Parker, Colo.), the MVC champion and school record holder in the event, was 38th crossing the line in 4:37.79.
"Kirsten really had a tremendous outdoor season in which she was able to set the conference outdoor meet record and school record in an event that was brand new to her," Hostager said.
"Competing against the nations best was a great experience for our three distance runners," Hostager added. "They have all put in a tremendous amount of work for this opportunity so they will be very motivated for next year. "
Temperatures in Austin soared to 92 degrees with high humidity and sunny skies.
"Today was a great day for our program," commented head coach Natasha Brown. "We had Phillip (Beeler) break the school record in the javelin, we advance both Ari (Curtis) and Jon (DeGrave) in the 400-meter hurdles and Omet (Kak) misses the qualifying for the next round of the men's 1500 by the narrowest of margins. It is our goal to have athletes qualify to the NCAA's with the intention of half of the group advancing the to the next round. Today we got a step closer to that goal. Ari and Jon graduate this year but the other six qualifiers have next year to return stronger, wiser and faster."
Three Bulldog hurdlers will see action tomorrow, as junior Marissa Smith (Ajax, Ontario), DeGrave and Curtis will all compete. Smith opens up the night competing in the preliminary rounds of the 100-meter hurdles at 5:30 p.m., while DeGrave and Curtis will compete in the semis of the 400-meter hurdles at 7:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., respectively.
"Marissa has had some great races this season," Brown said. " We are hopeful she can put another one together for tomorrow's prelims. If Ari can repeat her performance from today in tomorrow's semifinals she should secure a spot in the NCAA final rounds. Jon will need to be more aggressive in his race tomorrow. He has the ability to assess his previous race, make adjustments and run better the next time."
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.