ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Breanna Leslie and Remontay McClain each performed near their personal-bests as they took part in their first-ever U.S. championship meet this weekend for the U.S. Track & Field Indoor Championships.
“It’s an exciting meet for those two because they both had provisional qualifiers for the Olympic trials last year,” Cougar men’s track & field head coach Kevin Reid said last week prior to making the trip to Albuquerque. “The next step for them is the U.S. championships, and even though it’s not the trials, it’s the same level of meet and they open up this year with automatic qualifiers. It’s a good next step for them to be fully qualified, and now their next step is to begin to believe they belong in that venue.”
Leslie competed on the opening day of the meet, placing eighth in the pentathlon in a field of 16 competitors. She opened the day with an 8.47 in the 60-meter hurdles, and she wrapped it up with a career-best 800-meter time of 2:13.34 to finish the day with 4,053 points.
In between, she matched her career-high in the high jump, clearing 5-feet, 7-inches for the second time in the past two weeks after she cleared the same height at the championship meet for the National Christian College Athletic Association. Her five-event total left her just 109 points away from a top-five finish, and she finished just 56 points off the personal-best pentathlon score she set at the NCCAA meet. Leslie, who first broke the school-record for the pentathlon during her 2012 junior season, now owns the top five pentathlon scores in program history.
McClain finished fourth in his semifinal heat of the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.72. That qualified him for the finals, where he took seventh overall in the nationally-televised final with a time of 6.66 seconds, just two-hundredths off his personal-best of 6.64.
Leslie also ran Sunday in the 60-meter hurdles, placing sixth in her heat with a time of 8.43 seconds, which was just one-hundredth of a second off the personal-best she ran earlier this season at Northern Arizona University. Leslie ran in the same semifinal heat with all of the top three finishers in the afternoon’s finals.
“From lining up against professionals, and being in the check-in room with people you see winning medals on TV, this is the next level,” Reid said. “Part of Bryan Clay’s progression through that was his junior year when he made the world championship team. He was still kind of in awe at that point. There’s Olympians and world record holders at that level, and there’s still a step to believing you’re on that same level.”
Other participants with ties to Azusa Pacific were Tiffeny Parker and Jake Arnold. Parker completed her collegiate career at Azusa Pacific in 2011, and she placed 12th in the women’s pentathlon with 3,773 points and ran the 60-meter hurdles in the same heat as Leslie, recording a time of 8.70 seconds. Arnold, who currently serves as the jumps coach for Azusa Pacific’s track & field program, took fourth place in the heptathlon with 5,730 points.
Both McClain and Leslie now move into outdoor season along with the rest of Azusa Pacific’s track & field program. The next meet for the Cougars is Cal State Fullerton’s Ben Brown Invitational on Saturday, March 9.