Track and field: Panthers await invitations to NCAA Regional Championships

By Tony Jovenitti

The women’s track and field team placed fourth out of nearly 50 teams last weekend,… The women’s track and field team placed fourth out of nearly 50 teams last weekend, whereas the men were hindered by injuries. But everyone will have to wait until Friday to know exactly where they stand going forward for the rest of the season.

The new format for the NCAA Regional Championship — which features only two regions instead of four — does not have qualifying standards. Instead, the top 48 athletes in each event qualify for the regional competition.

Head coach Alonzo Webb said that there are six Panthers who should be invited, whereas several others are on the bubble.

Last weekend, the Panthers traveled to Princeton, N.J., where the men competed in the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America Championships (IC4A), and the women competed in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships (ECAC). The women took fourth, while the men stumbled into 41st place due to injuries.

“The idea wasn’t to do well as a team,” Webb said. “We were just trying to improve individual performances. Since the regionals are different, our focus was different than in the past.”

“The women just so happened to finish in fourth,” he said.

Both the men and women had 15 qualifiers for last weekend’s meet, but several men couldn’t compete because of injuries, as only eight men finished their races or posted scores in their events.

The men’s 4×800-meter relay team had the second fastest qualifying time, but could not run.

Still, Webb said he was surprised at how well some of the men did, notably Folarin Ijelu, who was coming off a hamstring injury and earned sixth in the triple jump.

“I was surprised he did as well as he did,” Webb said. “Garrett Larkin had his season best and Tashaun Hill had his personal best.”

Hill took seventh in the 110 hurdles earning the Panthers two team points. Ijelu earned three points with his sixth place finish and Jermaine Lowery took eighth in the 400-meter hurdles to earn one point for the team.

The women’s track team finished in the top eight in seven different events, including Da’Lynn Mills in the 200 and the 4×100 relay team, which consisted of Ashley Woodford, Mills, Jonnique Lawrence and Cambrya Jones.

Mills also took fourth in the 100, and Jones took fifth and sixth in the 100 and 200, respectively. Brianna Broyles took fourth in the 400 hurdles, and Rachael McIntosh took third in the heptathlon.

This meet marks the end of the season for many Panthers, while some await invitations to the NCAA Regional Championships, which takes place Memorial Day weekend in Greensboro, N.C.

Webb said he expects Broyles, Jones, Mills and the 4×100 relay team to qualify for the women and Lowery for the men.

But there are five others that are on the bubble. Dontave Cowsette, Ijelu, Hill and McIntosh are on the maybe list.

“Overall, I think it’s been an up-and-down season because of injuries and youth,” Webb said. “Right now, we’re just hoping to qualify for N.C. We’re excited to get these next two weeks of practice started.”