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Sarah Higgens ran a personal-best 11:09.70 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase to register one of Azusa Pacific's 47 NCCAA national-qualifying marks at the Ben Brown Invitational in Fullerton.

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March 9, 2013
Joe Reinsch
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FULLERTON, Calif. -- Although a few throwers and distance runners officially started the 2013 outdoor season for Azusa Pacific track & field two weeks ago in Claremont, the rest of the squad put up their opening marks this weekend at Cal State Fullerton’s Ben Brown Invitational.

The Cougars produced 47 marks that met the qualifying standards for the National Christian College Athletic Association outdoor championships. Three of those performances also met the provisional qualifying standard for NCAA Division II. Senior Cheri Smith’s hammer throw of 164-feet, 5-inches was a career-best, placing her eighth overall in the meet and punching her ticket to the NCCAA championships in May. Smith also registered an NCCAA qualifier in the shot put (38-feet, 7.75-inches).

The other two Division II-caliber performances came from Sarah Higgens’ 3,000-meter steeplechase PR of 11:09.70 and a javelin throw of 204-feet from 2012 NAIA javelin national champion David Musson, who had already recorded a toss of 214-feet, 2-inches to open the season two weeks ago.

In all, 27 NCCAA-qualifying marks were posted by Cougar athletes in the men’s events, while another 20 came from women’s events.

In men’s field events, nine different athletes accounted for 10 national-qualifying performances, with Brad Beckwith registering qualifiers in the hammer with a career-best throw of 167-feet, 11-inches and the discus (147-feet, 10-inches). In addition to Musson, two other qualifiers came in the javelin, with Richy Nance throwing 155-feet while Tomek Czerwinski registered a throw of 154-feet, 6-inches.

On the track, the Cougars notched qualifiers in each of the first three heats of the 400 meter hurdles, with Slater Ezell leading the way with a personal-best time of 53.36 while Tanner Henry and Sameer Sedam also met the NCCAA standard in the following two heats. Anthony Bryant, whose triple jump of 41-feet, 10-inches qualified him in that event, ran a 50.25 in the 400 to post another qualifier. Ezell and Czerwinski both posted qualifying times when they ran together in the same heat of the 110-meter hurdles, finishing in 15.17 and 15.75, respectively. Riley McKee’s personal-best in the 800 meters (1:55.68) also gave him an NCCAA-qualifier.

The distance events produced five qualifiers, with the freshman trio of Ryan Phillips, Aaron Potts, and Sam Bakerin the 1500 along with Peter Buscheck and Zach Ginn in the 5,000 meters.

In women’s field events, Smith was joined by Erica Grassl in qualifying for the hammer, with Grassl registering a throw of 124-feet, 9-inches. In the javelin, Breanna Leslie, Megan VanWinkle, and Jackie Landers all registered NCCAA qualifiers. Casey Schade cleared a new personal-best in the pole vault with her second attempt at 10-feet, 6.25-inches after clearing her opening attempts at each of the first three heights of the event.

Diandra Carstensen finished third overall in the 800 meters with a time of 2:14.67, just eight-hundredths of a second behind event winner Joy Eaton and less than three-tenths of a second off the Division II provisional standard. Jordan Chesley posted NCCAA qualifiers in both hurdles events, running 1:09.39 in the 400 hurdles along with a career-best 14.87 in the 100-meter hurdles. Anita Fung and Jazmine Alexander both registered qualifiers in two separate events on the track, with Fung qualifying for NCCAA outdoor nationals in the 100 and 200, while Alexander did so in the 200 and 400. Kristie Sikma and Sadie Ringer registered qualifying times in the 5,000, while Elle Farrar was within four seconds of the qualifying cutoff of 19:15, finishing in 19:19.03.

The Cougars will spend their next three weekends in San Diego, taking part in next weekend’s Aztec Invitational at San Diego State, which is followed by the March 23 Point Loma Invitational and the Cal-Nevada Collegiate Championships hosted by UC San Diego March 29-30.

Azusa Pacific’s only home meets during the outdoor season are the Mt. SAC Relays and California Invitational multi-events meet April 17-18, followed by the Bryan Clay Invitational on Friday, April 19. The Cougars will take part in the Pacific West Conference Championship meet at Point Loma April 26-27 before wrapping up the year the first weekend in May at the NCCAA Outdoor National Championships in Joliet, Illinois.