SIU ready to send 13 student-athletes to the NCAA West Region Prelims

    Sophomore Josh Freeman is coming off a dramatic victory in the shot put at the 2014 MVC Outdoor Championships; Photo Credit by Jennifer Gonzalez

    Sophomore Josh Freeman is coming off a dramatic victory in the shot put at the 2014 MVC Outdoor Championships; Photo Credit by Jennifer Gonzalez

    May 28, 2014

    NCAA West Region Preliminary Round Championships
     Dates May 29-31, 2014
     Location Fayetteville, Ark. -- John McDonnell Field (7,000)
     Meet Info Championship Central | Host Site
    Schedule | Men's Start Lists | Women's Start Lists
     Live Results Flash Results
     Live Video Arkansas RazorVision
    Day One (Thursday): Starts at 4:30 p.m. CDT
    Day Two (Friday): Starts at 5 p.m.
    Day Three (Saturday): Starts at 6 p.m.
     Rankings Men's National | Women's National | Team Rankings
    NCAA West Region (Men) | NCAA West Region (Women)
     Performance Lists SIU Men | SIU Women
     Records SIU Record Book | West Prelim History | West Prelim Records
     Media Guide Media Guide
     SIU Social Media @SIU_TrackXC  | Saluki Track and Field 
    Saluki Athletics  | Saluki Athletics  | Saluki Athletics 
     Other Links USTFCCCA | Track and Field News

    By Tyler Wooten

    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Over the next three days Saluki track and field will have 13 student-athletes compete in 17 total events at the NCAA West Region Preliminary Round Championships -- which will be held May 29-31 at the University of Arkansas' John McDonnell Field.

    Approximately 1,670 of the best student-athletes representing 200 teams in the NCAA's West Region will descend upon Fayetteville this week for a chance to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships -- which will once again be hosted by the University of Oregon at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., on June 11-14. To get to this point, student-athletes needed to finish the season ranked within the top-48 in their individual events or on one of the top-24 relay squads on the final qualifying lists (once scratches were applied). From there, the top-12 finishers in each event at both the East and West regional meets will earn a trip to Eugene.

    Since the regional format was adopted in 2010, Southern has sent 83 student-athletes to the regional meet -- or, roughly 16 competitors per year. Of those 83 athletes, 22 Salukis have gone on to punch tickets to nationals. This year, Southern is sending 13 Salukis to Arkansas to compete -- one more than the original qualifying lists released last Thursday indicated. Senior Kenya Culmer -- who sat on the outside looking in at 50th in the high jump -- was admitted into the event after medical scratches were applied earlier this week. Southern also has three throwers competing in multiple events: Josh Freeman in the shot put and discus, Ashley Gaston also in the shot put and discus and junior Curtis Wideman in the shot, discus and hammer throw.

    Live results can be found at Flash Results, and Arkansas RazorVision will offer a video stream on 4:30 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday. More information can be found at the US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) Championship Central page HERE, or at Arkansas' Host Site Central HERE.

    Thursday Preview (May 29)

    Ashley Gaston was the 2014 MVC Champion in the discus and the runner-up in both the shot put and hammer throw; Photo Credit by Jake Haines

    Thursday will be the most Saluki-heavy of the three days of action in Fayetteville, as seven Salukis will be in competition. Southern's day will begin at 2 p.m. with two athletes in the men's shot put: sophomore Josh Freeman (Flight 4) and junior Curtis Wideman (Flight 2). Freeman is hot off a dramatic upset victory in the shot at the MVC Outdoor Championships back on May 17 in which he toppled MVC all-time leader Curtis Jensen of Illinois State with a new SIU and MVC Championships record throw of 19.86m (65-02.00) -- currently the ninth-best throw in the NCAA in 2014. Wideman, who enters the regional meet at an outdoor PR of 17.64m (57-10.50), also earned All-MVC honors in the shot put in third place behind Freeman and Jensen.

    Up next at 5:30 p.m. will be senior Zach Dahleen, who will be looking to return to the national meet in the 1500 meter run for the second time in three years. Dahleen, SIU's all-time record holder in the event at 3:41.18, was a second-team All-American in the event in 2012 before redshirting the 2013 outdoor season due to injury. The Orland Park, Ill., native enters the meet ranked 25th nationally at 3:42.55 and will be up against some familiar competition. In heat two, Dahleen will once again meet 2014 MVC runner-up Sam Penzenstadler of Loyola -- who pushed Dahleen to third in the event at conference after besting him by less than one second. To qualify for the 1500 quarterfinals Saturday evening, Dahleen will need to either finish in the top-five of his heat or have one of the next four times after the top qualifiers in each heat are taken out.

    At 6:30 p.m., SIU's women will take to the ring for their chance at the shot put. Southern will also have two competitors in this event: 2014 MVC shot put runner-up Ashley Gaston (Flight 4) and sophomore Alexus Scott (Flight 1). Gaston -- who was also the MVC discus champion and hammer throw runner-up, enters the meet ranked 25th in the NCAA at 16.22m (53-02.75), which is also the fifth-best throw in SIU history outdoors. Scott, who scored in the shot at conference in sixth place, is currently at an outdoor PR of 15.03m (49-03.75) but has shown in the past that she has some more distance in her. Scott had an indoor best this past season of 15.62m (51-03.00) at the Indiana Relays, which ranks seventh all-time at SIU and would put her at 33rd in the region if made outside.

    Also at 6:30 p.m. will be freshman Katie Trupp in the first flight of the pole vault. Trupp put herself in contention to qualify for the regional meet at the MVC Outdoor Championships, where she finished as the runner-up at a sizable PR clearance of 3.94m (12-11.00) -- just one half-inch off tying the SIU all-time record outdoors. However, Trupp still needed some help to get in as she was ranked 50th in the region at the conclusion of the regular season. After the initial scratches were applied, though, Trupp was awarded the 48th and final qualifying spot.

    Later that evening junior Mobola Rotibi will conclude SIU's day in the sixth heat of the 800 meter run prelims at 8:35 p.m. Rotibi, who owns the best 800 time in the MVC in 2014 at 2:09.09, also ranks fourth all-time at SIU outdoors with the same time. To qualify for the quarterfinals on Friday night she will need to either finish in the top-three of her heat or have one of the next six best prelim times after the top-three in each heat advance.

    Friday Preview (May 30)

    Krista Menghini set a new SIU record in the 3000 meter steeplechase at 10:12.54, finishing as a runner-up at the 2014 MVC Outdoor Championships; Photo Credit by Chris Zoeller

    Junior Curtis Wideman will have an early start on Friday morning after the shot put Thursday, as he will be competing in the third flight of the hammer throw at 10 a.m. Wideman, the third-place All-MVC competitor in the hammer throw in 2014, enters competition ranked 32nd nationally and 14th regionally at a personal-best distance of 63.86m (209-06) -- which is also the fourth-best throw in Saluki history. Wideman will be one of only two Valley hammer throwers in Fayetteville as 2014 MVC Champion Akil Mills of Illinois State is in the same flight.

    That afternoon at 3 p.m., junior Ashley Gaston will take a swing at her second and final event of the regional meet in the second flight of the women's discus. Gaston earned her first career conference title after winning the 2014 MVC discus title by a monster PR of 53.95m (177-00), besting runner-up Alison Szykowny of Loyola (also in Flight 2) by four feet and then-2014 MVC leader Mary Thiesen of Indiana State by six feet. After her performance at the conference meet, Gaston improved upon her position in third all-time at SIU behind 2014 Saluki Hall of Fame inductee Amarachi Ukabam and 2012 NCAA discus champion and 15-time All-American Jeneva McCall.

    At 5 p.m., sophomore hurdler Kemar Jones will compete in the second heat of the 110 meter hurdles prelims. Jones, a finalist at the conference meet in the event after running a personal-best 14.18 seconds in qualifying, already ranks 10th all-time at SIU in the event. To qualify for the quarterfinals Saturday night, Jones -- a native of St. Phillip, Barbados -- will have to either finish in the top-three of his heat or have one of the next six times in prelims.

    Also at 5 p.m. will be freshman Kyle Landon in the first flight of the high jump. Landon, a native of nearby Chester, Ill., swept both the indoor and outdoor MVC high jump championships in his initial Saluki campaign after also posting both the fifth-best indoor (2.17m/7-01.50) and outdoor (2.20m/7-02.50) marks in Saluki history. In 13 high jump opportunities across both the indoor and outdoor seasons, Landon was the victor in 10 such attempts. Entering competition, Landon's PR of 2.20m (7-02.50) ranks tied for 15th in the NCAA in 2014.

    At 9:30 p.m., juniors Sadie Darnell (Heat 1) and Krista Menghini (Heat 3) will wrap up SIU's second day in the 3000 meter steeplechase. Darnell was the fourth-place finisher at the MVC Championships on May 17 at a five-second PR time of 10:23.11 -- which, would have broken her own school record set in 2013 (10:28.10) if not for Menghini, who was the runner-up. Menghini, a native of Fenton, Mo., shattered Darnell's record with her own staggering PR time of 10:12.54 -- a 17-second PR which was also nearly 50 seconds better than her best time in the steeple in 2013 (11:02.16). Menghini and Darnell enter competition ranked 11th and 31st in the West Region, respectively.

    Saturday Preview (May 31)

    Kenya Culmer has qualified for the regional meet in the high jump in each of her four years at SIU.

    Southern's final day in Fayetteville will begin at 3 p.m. with both Freeman and Wideman competing in the first flight of the men's discus. Freeman nearly claimed the discus title at the conference meet just one day after winning the shot put. His best toss of the day fell just two inches shy of UNI's Matt Schiffer, who won the championship on a toss of 52.52m (172-04). Freeman enters the regional meet at a personal best of 54.17m (177-09) and Wideman enters at 53.15m (174-04) -- which rank sixth and eighth all-time at SIU, respectively.

    At 6 p.m., SIU will have two competitors going in the jumps: senior Kenya Culmer in the first flight of the high jump and junior Luke James in the second flight of the triple jump. Culmer -- a native of Nassau, Bahamas, who owns both the SIU all-time indoor (1.83m/6-00.00) and outdoor (1.80m/5-11.25) records -- was initially ranked tied for 41st regionally at her season-best height of 1.75m (5-08.75) before being pushed down to 50th after ties were broken. After being accepted after medical scratches were applied, this is now Culmer's fourth consecutive trip to the regional meet in the high jump in four seasons at SIU.

    James, a junior transfer from Bethel University in Tennessee, continued the recent Saluki tradition of winning the MVC triple jump title back on May 18. James became the third straight Saluki to win the event outdoors and the fourth in three years (2012-14 outdoors, 2013 indoors) to win the MVC triple jump crown -- a feat that hadn't been done for 10 years before Southern's Dougie Palacious did so in 2012. The Memphis, Tenn., native enters the meet on his MVC-winning PR leap of 15.12m (49-07.25).

    Salukis Competing on Thursday (May 29)
    2:00 p.m. - Josh Freeman, Shot Put (Flight 4)
    2:00 p.m. - Curtis Wideman, Shot Put (Flight 2)
    5:30 p.m. - Zach Dahleen, 1500 Meter Run Prelims (Heat 2)
    6:30 p.m. - Ashley Gaston, Shot Put (Flight 4)
    6:30 p.m. - Alexus Scott, Shot Put (Flight 1)
    6:30 p.m. - Katie Trupp, Pole Vault (Flight 1)
    8:35 p.m. - Mobola Rotibi, 800 Meter Run Prelims (Heat 6)

    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)
    7:15 p.m. - Mobola Rotibi, 800 Meter Run Quarterfinals (top three from each prelim heat plus next six prelim times advance)
    9:30 p.m. - Sadie Darnell, 3000 Meter Steeplechase (Heat 1)
    9:30 p.m. - Krista Menghini, 3000 Meter Steeplechase (Heat 3)

    Salukis Competing on Saturday (May 31)
    3:00 p.m. - Josh Freeman, Discus (Flight 1)
    3:00 p.m. - Curtis Wideman, Discus (Flight 1)
    6:00 p.m. - Kenya Culmer, High Jump (Flight 1)
    6:00 p.m. - Luke James, Triple Jump (Flight 2)
    6:30 p.m. - Zach Dahleen, 1500 Meter Run Quarterfinals (top five from each prelim heat plus next four prelim times advance)
    7:05 p.m. - Kemar Jones, 110 Meter Hurdles Quarterfinals (top three from each prelim heat plus next six prelim times advance)

    * = All times are Central