JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Purdue Sports) – Purdue qualified for the NCAA Championships in six more events on the final day of the NCAA East Preliminary Round. The Boilermakers also broke three more school records in the process.
Caleb Fricke was the first Boilermaker to qualify on Saturday, after the third-straight day to have a weather delay pushed the event back two hours. Fricke was in the third flight and qualified for the finals with the seventh best throw of prelims, a mark of 57.40m (188-4).
It wasn’t that simple, though, because the sophomore fouled his first two attempts and needed a distance of more than 55m to advance. He came through and seemed to be in good position to advance through finals. However, Fricke’s mark was immediately passed by four competitors, which dropped to 11th, one spot from the magical No. 12 for individuals who qualify for the national championship. Before long, Fricke was in 12th and had to sweat out four competitors who could bump him, if he was unable to improve his own mark. The four throwers came and went, but Fricke’s 57.40m (188-4) mark held and punched his ticket to his first career national championships.
As Fricke was working his way through finals, Dani Bunch got things going in the women’s shot put. The simultaneous events were tough for throws coach Keith McBride because they were on complete opposite sides of the stadium and he had to run back and forth while not knowing if Fricke would qualify. Bunch made it easy, though. The senior had a great series, opening with 16.59m (54-05.25) and getting better each of her next two throws. On her third attempt, Bunch launched the best throw of her career, and in Purdue school history, with a mark of 17.39m (57-00.75) to take the lead in the event. Though she would have another 17m throw in finals, her school record mark held up as the best in the competition and she won the regional by a whopping 5.25 inches. Bunch’s mark was the best mark to qualify for NCAAs from either east or west regionals. Bunch has now qualified for three-straight NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Just as Bunch was wrapping up her shot put title and qualification, the running events started on the track and the men’s 4x100m relay was first. The team of Tyler Askew, Andrew Kendrick, Eric Harris II and Raheem Mostert needed to finish top three in its heat, or be one of the next three best non automatic qualifying times. The Purdue team decided to eliminate all doubt and broke the school record with a time of 39.34 seconds to take third in the heat and automatically qualify for the national championships. The NCAA berth is the first for Askew, Kendrick and Harris at Purdue, while Mostert added it to his 100m dash qualification from Friday, the first of his career.
Brandon Winters was the next Boilermaker on the track and while he qualified for the NCAA Championships, it was not without a bit of drama. Winters was in heat two and needed to be top three in his heat to automatically advance, or be one of the next three-best times. The senior ran a time of 13.80 seconds and took fourth in the heat, just 0.002 of a second shy of third place and the automatic bid. Based on posted results at the time, Winters had the third-best non-automatic time prior to the third and final heat, but needed the fourth finisher to have a time slower than 13.80 seconds. In that heat, the fourth-best time was 13.77 seconds, so the results showed that Winters missed by 0.002, as he and Robert Semien of Mississippi showed times of 13.80 seconds. However, the posted results we adjusted as a runner and qualifier from the first heat, Josh Thompson of LSU, was disqualified for a false start even though he completed the race. That put Winters in 12th, the final qualifying spot with an official time of 13.796 seconds, just 0.002 of a second ahead of Donald Pollitt of Syracuse who was the first competitor that did not qualify. Winters qualifies for the NCAA Championships for the second-straight year.
Mostert was back on the track for the 200m dash at 7:35 p.m. after already qualifying in the 100m and 4x100m relay. Mostert ran an identical time to his prelim mark, a time of 20.66 seconds, to take third in his heat and autoqualify for the NCAA Championships. Mostert went three-for-three in regionals in events competed and events qualified.
The final qualifier for Purdue came in the final event of the day, the women’s 4x400m relay. In heat two, the Purdue team of Taylor Morrison, Aarin Jones, Kari Shoolbraid and BreAnna Smith broke the school record in the event, a record they set at the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago. Morrison started things out and kept Purdue in the front half. Jones took the stick and did the same, leaving Purdue around fourth or fifth. Shoolbraid had one of the fastest splits of her career, officially clocking a 53.69-second split, the fastest of all third-legs in the race. In the fourth leg, Smith ran the best leg of her career as she posted a 52.59-second split to give the relay team a third place finish with a time of 3:34.61. The NCAA berth is the first of all four women’s careers, though Smith also qualified in the 800m run on Friday.
Also in action Saturday, Ciana Tabb just missed qualifying as she took 17th overall in the 100m hurdles and was 0.15 of a second shy of advancing. Caleb Reiff was in the first flight of the discus and took 32nd with a mark of 52.22m (171-4). Cierra Brown qualified for the triple jump finals in 13th, but just missed advancing as she took 15th. Brown jumped an outdoor PR mark of 12.92m (42-4.75) and was five and a half inches shy of qualifying. The men’s 4x400m relay was also in action and ran a time of 3:09.69 to finish 19th.
Purdue finished the weekend qualifying in 10 events, seven men and three women, including the two relays. That number is up from six a year ago. A full interview with head coach Lonnie Greene about the team’s weekend can be found below.
The Boilermakers have a week to prepare for the championships before heading to Eugene, Ore., for the June 11 to June 14 national championships.