There is suspense at the NCAA Regionals in track (technically, they are called the NCAA Division I East & West Preliminary Rounds). It is the suspense of Selection Sunday, the folks with no hope of winning it all who just hope to make it in to the big show. And granted, that is a worthy goal, whether you are a basketball team that lost in the MAC finals or the 20th ranked shot putter in the country who wants to end your season in Eugene. But the reality is, with 48 qualifiers for each event in each Regional, and the top 12 advancing to the big meet in two weeks, championships are generally not won and lost in May. Only 8 of the 24 athletes that make it to the finals score, and in most track events the pecking order is clear enough that big-time scorers are not in danger of getting left out. It takes something on the order of a 15-vs-2 upset to leave a potential national champion at home.
State was facing the real possibility of that upset Thursday afternoon, as superstar long jumper Jonathan Addison sat in 16th place as he lined up for the very last jump of the competition. Addison had recorded 24'5.5" and a foul on his first two attempts, and needed a 2-inch improvement to keep his season going. (He's been over 25-feet in every competition this year, with a best of 26'9.75".) Did he play it safe on the runway and just try to sneak into the top 12? What would Kent Murphy do? Addison blasted past 26 feet on the final attempt, to win by almost 9 inches on a day when very few jumpers were approaching their season best. That keeps alive one of State's surest national scorers, and as I said to a State coach last week, every single point at the NCAA meet moves you up further in the Director's Cup standings.
State has several very likely qualifiers, all of whom could and in some cases should score at the finals. First on the dock is Megan Moye, ranked second nationally in the 1500, who has a prelim tonight and what is called a quarterfinal (because the semi- and final are in Oregon in two weeks) on Saturday. Graham Crawford in the men's 1500 meters is also favored to advance and could be a threat to score at the finals. Alexis Perry in the womens' long jump and Luis Vargas in the 10,000 meters have finals tonight. Perry will also race the 100 meter hurdles, where she is ranked ninth nationally, Friday and hopefully Saturday. Meron Simon will go Friday night in the steeplechase, where he is seventh in the nation. The men's 4x100 is favored to advance on Saturday, and Vargas is a good bet to double up by making it in the 5000. Crawford and Simon also have times that make them legitimate qualifying threats in the 5000, if they choose to do two events.
There are several other Pack athletes competing in Jacksonville this week, but their chances of moving on to Oregon are more along the lines of a 13-seed hoping to the make the 2nd weekend of the NCAA tourney. But I'll be back in comments to give updates on how everyone does over the next couple of days.