Bowling Green, Ky. — In a year in which the Lady Toppers claimed their second-consecutive Sun Belt Conference triple crown, and the Hilltoppers won both the SBC indoor and outdoor team titles, the Western Kentucky University track and field teams have a record 17 NCAA Regional qualifiers who will be competing in Fayetteville, Ark., May 30-31 for a chance to advance to the NCAA Championships.
For the second year in a row, WKU has qualified both the men's and women's 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay teams for the regional meet. In the Mideast Region, only six schools accomplished the feat for the 2008 season, with WKU joining Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Louisiana Tech, and Michigan on the elite list.
The relays are highlighted by the men's 4x400, which is ranked eighth in the region heading into this weekend's competition. The foursome of Alexander Larin, Gavin Smellie, Romaine McKay, and Terrill McCombs earned All-America honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships with an eighth-place finish, while also taking runner-up honors in April at the prestigious Drake Relays.
Smellie enters the regional meet as the most decorated Hilltopper, showing his range in qualifying for five events. Along with the 4x100 and 4x400 relays, Smellie is seeded ninth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 20.82, while also having qualifying times of 10.45 in the 100 meters and 47.13 in the 400 meters. Joining Smellie in the 200 and 400 is Terill McCombs, who earned all-Mideast Region honors as a freshman in 2007 with an eighth-place finish in the quarter mile.
After missing regional qualification in 2006 and 2007 by a mere one centemeter, Asa Dew will represent WKU in the triple jump in Fayetteville, bringing in a mark of 50-4.50. For the second-straight year, Mandhla Mgijima will compete in the long jump at the regional meet, while also pulling double duty as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team. After earning top-point scorer honors at the SBC meet earlier this month, Brian Soverns will represent WKU in the discus and shot put.
For the WKU women, Natalie Leeper carries the best ranking into the regional meet, as she sits ninth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Her qualifying performance of 10:38.92 came two weeks ago at the Cardinal Last Chance Twilight in Louisville, where she bettered her own school record in the event by over ten seconds. Joining Leeper from the Lady Topper distance corps is Janet Jesang and Eimear O'Brien, who both qualified in the 5,000 meters.
The most decorated Lady Topper set to compete this weekend is Valarie Brown, who has qualified in the 200 meters and 400 meters, as well as the 4x100- and 4x400-meter relays. In the 200-meter dash, she is joined by Kellie Morrison, while Alecia Brown is also qualified for the 400-meter dash. In the 100-meter dash, WKU is represented by Miaie Williams, while Temi Akojie is set to compete in her third regional meet as a member of the 4x100-meter relay.
The lone field event qualifier for the WKU women is Sarah Lambrecht, who won the hammer at the SBC championships earlier this month with a meet- and school-record throw of 184-4.
Lambrecht will kick off the meet for WKU Friday, with the women's hammer scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. (CDT).