KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Track & Field team has had 17 entries earn qualification into the 2015 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The road to Eugene and the National Championships begins next week at the NCAA East Preliminary Round in Jacksonville, Florida, which runs May 28-30.
Nine members of the 24th-ranked Volunteer men’s team comprise the squad’s 11 entries, while the women’s team has qualified five athletes across its six entries. Those athletes will compete at Hodges Stadium on the campus of the University of North Florida for the opportunity to advance to the semifinal and final rounds of the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Athletes ranking among the top 48 in their respective event on the East Region performance list earn berths into the NCAA East Preliminary Round. The best 24 relays times also advanced to the prelims. At the Regional competition, the athletes with the top 12 times/marks, as well as the 12 best relay teams, will qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Senior Tavis Bailey and freshman Christian Coleman qualified in two events for the Vols, with Bailey punching his ticket in the men’s discus and shot put and Coleman making his first trip to the prelims in both the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash. Bailey, who enters next week’s competition with the No. 3-ranked discus mark (204-1/62.20) in the East Region, will be shooting for his third consecutive trip to the National Championships in the event. He has never advanced to Eugene in the shot put.
Bailey will be joined in the discus competition by freshman Matthew Zajac, who qualified for his first postseason outing with a throw of 185 feet, six inches (56.55) — the 20th-best mark in the East. Matthew Hoty (61-5/18.72) will compete alongside Bailey in the shot put. A senior, Hoty will be looking to earn his first trip to the NCAA Championships since 2012 when he qualified as a freshman.
Coleman, on the other hand, is one of 11 freshman sprinters to qualify for the preliminary rounds in his first go in the 100 meters. He is the No. 9 sprinter in the event following his time of 10.19 at last weekend’s SEC Championships. In the 200, Coleman is one of only seven freshmen and owns the 14th-best time in the field (20.73).
SEC pole vault champion Jake Blankenship (19-0.25/5.80) heads to the NCAA prelims as the No. 2 vaulter in both the East Region and in the entire NCAA. A top-12 finish will send Blankenship to his third NCAA Championships in as many seasons. He is joined by senior Tyler Porter, whose season-best vault of 17 feet, 8.5 inches (5.40) is good for sixth in his qualifying group.
Qualifiers Nathan Strother (400m), Austin Whitelaw (5000m), and Kyle Quinn (javelin) round out UT’s entries on the men’s side.
The Volunteer women will see sprinter Felicia Brown compete in both the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash after posting career-best marks in those events last weekend at SECs. With an all-conditions time of 11.31, Brown ranks at No. 7 in the 100 while her 22.78 — the second-fastest in program history — is third in the 200.
Chelsea Blaase will arrive in Jacksonville as the top runner in the 10,000-meters field. She broke her own school record in the event earlier this season, logging a 32:28.39. The two-time All-American in 2014-15 will be looking to advance to her very first Outdoor National Championships.
Felecia Majors will compete for Tennessee in the 400 meters while Erin Champion and Maria Jimenez stand as UT’s field-event qualifiers in the pole vault and javelin throw, respectively.
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