SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A trio of Azusa Pacific track and field alumni all finished in the top-10 of their respective events at last weekend’s U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships, adding to a national Olympic qualifying marathon time for former Cougar distance running star Lauren Jimison. In addition, 2014 graduate Trenten Merrill placed fourth in two events at the U.S. Paralympic Championships a week earlier in San Mateo, Calif.
Jimison, who graduated from Azusa Pacific in 2012 after stellar four-year cross country and track and field career for the Cougars, competed in her first-ever marathon on Saturday, June 21, placing fourth overall at the Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. She was one of three American runners who finished in the top-five of the women’s race, clocking a time of 2:35:17, which met the “A” qualifying standard for the 2016 U.S. Olympic marathon trials, which will be held in Los Angeles and televised nationally on NBC on Feb. 13, 2016.
LINK: Lauren Jimison’s blog entry “On Marathons and Fog.”
Merrill posted fourth-place finishes in the 200-meter and 400-meter finals in the 43/44 classification, turning in a career-best time of 52.75 seconds in the 400. His 200-meter prelim time of 23.56 was the fourth-fastest qualifying time, and he took fourth again in the 200 after he was edged in the finals by just one-thousandth of a second, finishing in 24.194 behind A.J. Digby, who registered 24.193.
Meanwhile, 2013 graduate Breanna Leslie highlighted a trio of Azusa Pacific alumni who competed at the U.S. Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, placing eighth overall in the heptathlon with a two-day scoring total of 5,838 points. It was Leslie’s second consecutive U.S. outdoor national championship appearance, and she recorded personal-best performances in four of the seven events to come within 55 points of her overall heptathlon personal-best.
On the first day, Leslie set personal-bests in the 100-meter hurdles (13.72), shot put (38-feet, 1.25-inches), and 200 meters (24.03) while clearing 5-feet, 5.25-inches in the high jump to give her a first-day total of 3,437 points. She opened the second day with marks of 18-feet, 9.75-inches in the long jump and 133-feet, 8-inches in the javelin, before wrapping up the competition with a fourth event PR in the 800 meters (2:10.88).
Meanwhile, a pair of men’s track and field alumni claimed top-10 U.S. national championship appearances, as Aron Rono took eighth place in the 10,000 meters and Slater Ezell claimed ninth overall in the 400-meter hurdles. Rono, who graduated in 2009 as the NAIA’s first-ever four-time 10,000-meter individual national champion, finished with a time of 28:56.90 in a race won by American record-holder and reigning Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp.
Ezell was one place away from qualifying for one of the eight spots in the finals of the 400-meter hurdles, instead finishing in ninth overall with a time of 51.11 after posting the 11th-fastest time of prelims (51.15) in his first-ever U.S. championship appearance.
Current Azusa Pacific track and field athlete Alexis Youngberg also competed at the U.S. Paralympic Championships, placing fifth in the 100-meter dash (13/43-47 classification) with a season-best time of 14.13 and claiming third in the 200-meter dash (38/44/46 classification) while registering 30.39 seconds.