Red Raider T and F Ready for Nationals
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Texas Tech concluded a strong weekend with an explanation point Saturday. The men's squad brought its total number of men's NCAA Championship qualifications to a nation-leading 19 while picking up two more women's qualifications.
The Red Raiders again flexed their muscles on the track, booking three more lanes in Austin. The start to the evening was strong right off the bat as the 4x100 relay squad ran a 39.00 for the third-fastest time in program history. The relay won the first heat handily for an automatic bid to nationals. The foursome of Keion Sutton, Divine Oduduru, Andrew Hudson and Jacolby Shelton now own each of the top-three times in school history.
After advancing to Austin in the 4x100, the second and third legs of the relay went on to dominate the 200m and book individual tickets for themselves. Hudson opened in the first heat and, for the second time in two days set a big lifetime best. He ran a 20.04 for the top time overall. His weekend has now included two sub-20.15 times and two individual national qualifications.
Oduduru followed his teammate with a 20.08 in the next section. Oduduru, who is the world leader and defending NCAA Champion in the event, also won his heat to secure an automatic bid. Such performances from the two – each of whom has run in five races this weekend – warranted praise from Kittley.
Much like Hudson and Oduduru, Alaysha Johnson also powered through a long weekend of races to earn two individual qualifications of her own. The graduate transfer ran a 13.35 in a tough race in which a runner went down alongside her. She placed third in her heat, entitling her to a lane in Austin. She now has a lane reserved for her in both the 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles.
"I'm going to get choked up . . . I'm so happy that I came to Texas Tech."
"It's been a tremendous year for me," Johnson said after the race. "I transferred twice, and I've been in so many predicaments where I thought I'd never run track again. To come out here with two 400m hurdle races on my legs, a personal best and a season best in the prelims and be able to finish a race is everything to me."
The excitement on the track was preceded by drama in the jumps. Sophomore Jake Benninghoff was forced into a jump-off in the high jump when he was not one of the nine to clear 7'-1" (2.16m). The clearances left seven jumpers vying for just three remaining spots. All but one missed at an added attempt at 2.16m, so the bar was lowered to 6'-11" (2.11m). It was at this height the Rogers, Ark., native cleared, booking himself a spot at a national championship for the first time in his career.
Tech was on the wrong side of drama in the horizontal jumps, however. After a tough start, Chinne Okoronkwo willed herself to a 42'-1.5" (12.84m) in her third and final attempt to find herself clinging on to the 12th spot in the standings. In the final jump of the competition, LaJarvia Brown of Texas A&M popped off a leap of 42'-10.75" (13.07m) to catapult herself from 13th – one spot out of the finals – to fifth. Though Brown's distance knocked Okoronkwo out, the junior will still make the trip to Austin for the pole vault, in which she qualified Friday.
The men's horizontals picked up two additional qualifications Saturday in the form of Odaine Lewis and Charles Brown. Lewis, who was the national runner-up in last year's outdoor meet and this year's indoor meet, jumped 53'-9" (16.38m) for the top distance in the West Preliminary. Brown earned his first outdoor nationals triple jump appearance since his freshman year with a top leap of 52'-0.5" (15.86m). Both jumpers already qualified in the long jump on Thursday.
The NCAA Outdoor Championships will take place June 5-8 in Austin, Texas.