Six athletes advance from NCAA West Preliminary

Emily Polglaze

With two top-ten finishes and a broken school record, six members of the Gophers women’s track and field team kept their seasons alive at the NCAA West Preliminary.
 
After a successful meet in Austin, Texas, over the weekend, Minnesota track and field athletes Devin Stanford, Nicolle Murphy, Jessica Waldvogel, Titania Markland, Erin Hawkins and Emerald Egwim will join heptathlete Jess Herauf at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., from June 10 through June 13
 
“They continued to be confident in controlling what they could control,” head coach Matt Bingle said. “I’m really pleased with the weekend.”
 
Stanford was the first to punch her ticket to nationals after her 10th place finish in the hammer throw during the first night of competition Thursday. Stanford threw 61.82 meters to tie her own personal record. 
 
This will be Stanford’s second trip to the NCAA championship meet, after finishing 15th in the hammer throw last season.
 
During Saturday’s competition, sophomore Nicolle Murphy qualified for the national meet following her third-place finish in the javelin throw. It was the highest finish among all the Gophers who participated in the preliminary meet. 
 
It will be Murphy’s first time heading to the championships after placing 14th in the javelin at the preliminaries last year. 
 
“I’m in a much better physical state this year,” Murphy said. “And I’m mentally stronger; [I’m] not putting as much pressure on myself.”
 
Bingle also found Murphy to be cooler under pressure. 
 
“It was great to see her be successful,” he said. “Her confidence is up, and [she] came and executed.”
 
The final qualifiers for Minnesota came from the 4×400-meter relay team of Waldvogel, Markland, Hawkins and Egwim. The relay team ran a new school record of 3:32.68, marking the second time the team has broken the record this season. 
 
“They’re learning from each other, and they didn’t want to be done,” Bingle said. “It was awesome to watch, and it was just a tribute to them and their commitment to each other.”
 
Waldvogel and Markland advanced to the NCAA Championships last year as part of the 4×400 relay team that took 19th place at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
 
“Just getting to this meet is an accomplishment in itself, but we would love to place higher than what we come in as,” Waldvogel said. 
 
Jess Herauf rounds out the list of Minnesota qualifiers. Herauf won the Big Ten heptathlon title this season and earned herself a bid to the NCAA Championships.
 
Multi-event contests do not have preliminaries.
 
Murphy, who is advancing to her first NCAA Outdoor Championships, hopes to take in every part of the experience.
 
“If the experience is good, that’s great,” she said. “If it’s not as good as I want it to be, I can just turn around and hopefully do better next year. I’m just excited to be going.” 
 
But for Waldvogel, the championship is a little more personal. She’s the team’s senior captain, and it’ll be her last run before ending her collegiate career.
 
“I want to go down there and be able to enjoy my last race,” Waldvogel said. “I want to enjoy the memories getting on the track and off the track.”