Salukis score three national qualifiers in the shot put at Day One of NCAA West Region Prelims

    Sophomore Josh Freeman qualified for nationals after finishing third overall; Photo Credit by Jake Haines

    Sophomore Josh Freeman qualified for nationals after finishing third overall; Photo Credit by Jake Haines

    May 29, 2014

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    By Tyler Wooten
    SIUSalukis.com

    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Saluki track and field already has three national qualifiers and one quarterfinals qualifier after Day One of the NCAA West Region Preliminary Round Championships at Arkansas' John McDonnell Field on Thursday.

    Each of Southern's three national qualifiers -- junior Ashley Gaston and sophomores Josh Freeman and Alexus Scott -- did so in the shot put. First up was Freeman, who finished third overall at 19.51m (64-00.25) -- just three inches off of second place (UCLA's Nicholas Scarvelis, 19.61m/64-04.00) and just under three feet shy of national leader Ryan Crouser of Texas (20.40m/66-11.25). Freeman, the now two-time defending MVC outdoor shot put champion, topped out on his second throw but was once again able to beat out Illinois State's Curtis Jensen -- who tied Freeman's distance. Freeman was awarded third place outright after his sixth and final throw of 19.43m (63-09.00) was roughly one foot better than Jensen's second best.

    This is the first trip to outdoor nationals for Freeman, but not his first overall. The Fox River Grove, Ill., native also qualified for indoor nationals in the shot put this past season where he finished two spots shy of All-American honors in 10th place -- good for Second-Team All-American honors. If Freeman were to finish in the top-eight at the outdoor national meet (Eugene, Ore., June 11-14) he would become the first Saluki male to earn First-Team All-American honors outdoors since two-time Olympic silver medalist and four-time All-American George Woods did so in 1966, and the first in either the indoor or outdoor season since SIU throws coach John Smith did indoors in 1984.

     

     

    In the women's shot put, Alexus Scott (11th place) and Ashley Gaston (12th) secured the final two qualifying spots out of the 12 finalists that get trips to Eugene. Scott, a sophomore native of Greenbelt, Md., led all competitors in the event after the first two flights after opening up with a massive personal-best launch of 15.91m (52-02.50) -- nearly three feet better than her season and outdoor best, and nearly two feet further than her previous overall best set indoors. That first throw -- now the sixth-best all-time at SIU outdoors behind Gaston -- was good enough as the final two flights took their attempts and it was good enough to hang on for 11th place at the end of finals.

    Gaston, the 2014 MVC runner-up in the shot put, also topped out early at 15.85m (52-00.00) on her second throw in the fourth flight. The junior native of Centerville, Ill., fouled two of her final four attempts but was still able to latch onto the 12th and final qualifying spot due to that second throw.

    This is the first trip to the national meet for both Salukis, and for Scott this comes on the heels of her first trip to the regional meet. Southern was one of three schools in the event to punch multiple tickets to Eugene, as Missouri and Nebraska were also able to do so.

    The shot put has historically been a very successful event for Saluki women at the national meet, as both Gaston and Scott now have the chance to join the ranks of Saluki Hall of Fame members Rhonda McCausland (seventh, 1986 outdoors) and Amarachi Ukabam (two-time shot put All-American, 2005 indoors and outdoors), and six-time shot put All-American and 2011 indoor national runner-up Jeneva McCall (15-time All-American in total). In all, nine of the 38 women's First-Team All-American honors at SIU have come in the shot put (five outdoors, four indoors).

    Senior Zach Dahleen secured a chance to perhaps join the trio of shot putters in Eugene as he qualified for the 1500 meter run quarterfinals Saturday night after his performance in the prelims on Thursday. In order to qualify for Saturday night's race, student-athletes either needed to finish in the top-five in their heat or have one of the next four times after those top finishers are taken out of consideration. From there, the top-12 finishers qualify for the NCAA Championships in Eugene.

    Dahleen, the SIU all-time record holder in the event at 3:41.18, finished sixth in the highly-competitive Heat Two where less than one second separated the top-six runners. However, he had the fastest time of the next four non-automatic qualifiers at 3:43.69 to secure a spot in the 24-man race Saturday night. Dahleen, a native of Orland Park, Ill., is looking to return to Eugene after sitting out the 2013 outdoor season due to injury. The Saluki senior was a national qualifier and Second-Team All-American in the 1500 in 2012.

    SIU also had three additional competitors on Day One: Curtis Wideman in the shot put (16th place), Mobola Rotibi in the 800 meter prelims (30th) and Katie Trupp in the pole vault (no height).

    Wideman, who is competing in both the hammer throw (Friday, 10 a.m.) and discus (Saturday, 3 p.m.) in Fayetteville this week, matched his exact season-best at 17.64m (57-10.50) on his first throw of the day. That mark was good enough for second overall after two flights and gained him entrance into finals, but the junior native of Evanston, Ill., fouled his final five attempts to finish in 16th.

    Trupp, the 2014 MVC pole vault runner-up, missed the bar at 3.74m (12-03.25) to conclude a superb freshman campaign at SIU. In addition to nearly claiming the outdoor conference title and the school record at the same time on May 16, Trupp made a name for herself in the Saluki record books by vaulting her way up to second all-time on both the indoor (3.87m/12-08.25) and outdoor (3.94m/12-11.00) lists.

    Southern's final competitor of the day was junior middle-distance runner Mobola Rotibi, who finished roughly one second shy of qualifying for quarterfinals after running the 30th-best qualifying time at 2:09.98. The performance wraps up a strong season for Rotibi, who set career bests in the 800 indoors (2:11.28) and outdoors (2:09.09) that rank third and fourth all-time at SIU -- the latter of which led the Missouri Valley Conference in 2014.

    On Friday, SIU will have six student-athletes in competition. Wideman will begin the day in the hammer throw at 10 a.m., followed by Gaston in the discus (3 p.m.), Kemar Jones in the 110 meter hurdles prelims (5 p.m.), Kyle Landon in the high jump (5 p.m.), and Sadie Darnell and Krista Menghini in the 3000 meter steeplechase (9:30 p.m.).

    Live results are available at Flash Results, and a live stream will begin at 5 p.m. on Arkansas RazorVision.

    National Qualifiers
    Josh Freeman - Shot Put (third place)
    Alexus Scott - Shot Put (11th place)
    Ashley Gaston - Shot Put (12th place)

    Salukis Competing on Friday (May 30)
    10:00 a.m. - Curtis Wideman, Hammer Throw (Flight 3)
    3:00 p.m. - Ashley Gaston, Discus (Flight 2)
    5:00 p.m. - Kemar Jones, 110 Meter Hurdles Prelims (Heat 2)
    5:00 p.m. - Kyle Landon, High Jump (Flight 1)
    9:30 p.m. - Sadie Darnell, 3000 Meter Steeplechase (Heat 1)
    9:30 p.m. - Krista Menghini, 3000 Meter Steeplechase (Heat 3)

    SIU