AZUSA, Calif. -- With the National Christian College Athletic Association indoor championship meet just three weeks away, Azusa Pacific put up more than 50 NCCAA-qualifying marks in its 2013 season-opener as it hosted the Indoor Events Qualifier Saturday in Azusa.
Among the many NCCAA-qualifiers were four efforts that met NCAA Division II provisional qualifying standards, including senior Breanna Leslie’s winning time of 8.55 (just eight-hundredths off her personal-best) in the finals of the 60-meter hurdles.
Leslie also hit the Division II provisional standard with the Cougars’ 4x400 meter relay that registered a time of 3:54.84, and her high jump clearance of 5-feet, 2.5-inches along with her 37-foot, 7.75-inch shot put gave her four NCCAA event qualifications in the four events she competed.
“Having nationals a little earlier on the calendar raises the bar a little bit,” said women’s head coach Preston Grey. “Everybody knew they had to be on the ball sooner, and I think we competed well today.”
Azusa Pacific notched 24 NCCAA qualifiers on the women’s side along with 28 for the men. Leading the way for the Cougar men’s team was junior David Schulte, who not only won the long jump with a leap of 22-feet, 8-inches but also ran the anchor leg of the 4x400 relay after clocking a personal-record 49.21 in the 400 meters to meet the Division II provisional standard in that event. Mareka Clark added a mark of 37-feet, 10.75-inches in the triple jump for another performance which exceeded the Division II provisional standard.
The Cougars opened up the day by taking three of the top four spots in the men’s and women’s 60-meter hurdles, and they closed things out by winning both the women’s and men’s 4x400 meter relays. In between, Azusa Pacific produced national qualifiers for the Feb. 15-16 NCCAA Indoor National Championships in eight of the 11 track events it entered, as well as every field event of the day.
“There’s a little more pressure on everybody, and we saw that in practice this week,” men’s head coach Kevin Reid said. “However, the practice jitters we saw out there early in the week were gone today. I think everyone surprised themselves that they were a little more ready than they expected. We had some great marks from the veterans and the young guys, and this is a good start heading into this next three-week run.”
In the throws, senior Cheri Smith won the weight throw (48-feet, 6.75-inches) to lead the Cougars to three of the top four spots in that event, and she placed fourth in the shot put with a personal-best toss of 38-feet, 4.25-inches. Leslie and junior Megan VanWinkle finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the shot put while also posting NCCAA-qualifying distances.
“We had a good team spirit out there,” Grey said. “It’s a good place to start, but there’s definitely room to grow. Some people might be disappointed with their performances, but this is a good place to start and grow from.”
Junior Brad Beckwith easily made the NCCAA weight throw distance with a mark of 51-feet, 10-inches, and he also qualified with true freshman Talaiasi Taueli in the shot put. Taueli won the event in his first collegiate meet, launching the shot 49-feet, 0.25-inches on his final throw of the competition.
The Cougars’ depth continued in the distance events, with a combined seven athletes hitting NCCAA-qualifiers in the men’s and women’s 3,000 meters. Sophomore Peter Buscheck led a trio of Cougars to national-qualifying times, shaving more than 20 seconds off his personal-best in the 3,000 with a runner-up time of 8:45.37. He was followed by true freshmen Aaron Potts and Ryan Phillips, who both finished with sub-9:00 performances.
Sophomore Kristie Sikma and junior Sarah Higgens paced the women’s distance team as the top collegiate finishers in their race, and freshmen Reika Kijima and Sadie Ringer both beat the NCCAA qualifying standard of 11:06. Freshman Megan Crowley was just five seconds away from the national qualifying mark, finishing ninth overall with a time of 11:11.90.
Junior transfer Tomek Czerwinski was a three-event qualifier for the Cougar men, barely missing the cut in shot put with a throw of 40-feet, 6-inches after winning the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.50. He placed fourth in the 60-meter dash (7.23) and cleared 12-feet, 7.5-inches in the pole vault. Jake Hare was the 60-meter sprint winner, posting a 7.09, while Sameer Sedam and Ronald Douglas crossed the line in under 7.2 seconds in the same event.
Five Cougars also hit NCCAA-qualifying marks in the men’s long jump, with Cameron Vaughn, Justin Young, Anthony Bryant, and Matt Nash all jumping beyond 20-feet to finish in the top 10 of the event. Another four-qualifier performance came in the 200 meters courtesy of sophomore Tanner Henry (22.92), Bryant (23.02), Sedam (23.12), and Vaughan (23.28).
Azusa Pacific participates in two more regular-season meets before taking part in the NCCAA indoor national championship meet, which is hosted by Indiana Wesleyan University. Next week, the Cougars travel to Flagstaff, Ariz., to compete for a third consecutive year at Northern Arizona University’s Mountain T’s Invitational.