EDWARDSVILLE — Members of the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville track and field program split up and compete at three separate meets over the weekend in an attempt to qualify for NCAA West Preliminaries.
The preliminaries will be held May 23-25.
Five Cougar athletes competed in the Georgia Tech Invitational in Atlanta, while four others traveled to Emporia, Kan., for the Sam Williams Twilight Qualifier. A pair of SIUE athletes also competed at the Dr. Keeler Track & Field Invite at North Central College in Naperville.
"I thought everyone competed well," coach Kareem Jackson said. "For some of our athletes to have their best performances of the season in these types of environments is great. It shows that we're moving in the right direction with our training."
At North Central, senior Aftan Noon broke a pair of school records with two first-place finishes. She placed first overall in the women's 800 meters with a record-breaking time of 2 minutes, 8.99 seconds, while also taking first in the 1,500 meters with a finish of 4:25.42.
"Aftan ran smart and competed well," assistant coach Eileen McAllister said. "She gave herself a very good chance to qualify for nationals."
Competing at Georgia Tech, Ahmad Evans finished 13th out of 56 athletes in the 100 meters with a time of 10.67 seconds. He also was sixth out of 53 in the 200 meters with a finish of 21.33.
Braxton Klavins set personal bests in both the 200 and 400 meters. He finished 13th out of 53 in the 200 with a time of 21.49 while also coming in 11th out of 33 in the 400 with a finish of 47.26.
Josh Thomas also represented the SIUE men in Atlanta, and posted a time of 54.54 in the 400 meter hurdles. Thomas was on pace for a personal-best performance until he clipped the ninth hurdle, derailing his efforts.
"Josh might have had his best performance of the year until he hit that hurdle," Jackson said. "It's really unfortunate; I know he took that hard."
For the women's team, freshman LaDonna Caston set a personal best in the 400 meter hurdles with a finish of 1:03.34. She also finished 12th out of 26 overall in the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 14.19.
Fellow freshman Jessica Oranika finished 0.1 second shy of her personal best time in the 400 meters with an eighth-place finish of 54.78. She also posted a time of 24.83 in the 200 meters.
At Emporia State, Elizabeth Hampl set a personal best in the women's hammer throw with a mark of 187 feet, 2.25 inches. Colleen McDonough threw 184-9 in the hammer and 48-2 in the shot put.
On the men's side, Jamil Mashni finished first in the shot put with a personal-best mark of 55-2.25. Darius Smith also ran 10.69 in the 100 meters and 21.54 in the 200 meters.
The Cougars now will wait and see how many athletes will travel to Austin, Texas for NCAA West Preliminaries. Athletes must declare to compete in their given events by Wednesday, and selections will be made Thursday at noon.
The top 48 athletes in the West region automatically qualify for national prelims. Athletes outside the top 48 must hope that those in front of them choose not to declare for a certain event.
Currently, Evans currently ranks 24th in the 100 meters and 43rd in the 200 meters, qualifying him for prelims in both events. La'Derrick Ward also is in line to qualify, ranking 26th in the long jump.
Smith is 57th in the 100 meters, and Klavins is 60th in the 400 meters. Thomas is 69th in the 400 meter hurdles, and Mashni is 63rd in the shot put.
On the women's side, McDonough and Hampl are 40th and 43rd, respectively, in the hammer throw. Jatavia Wright is 48th in the 100 meter hurdles and Caston is 59th. Wright also is 50th in the triple jump and 65th in the long jump.
Noon is 59th in the 800 and 69th in the 1,500, while Oranika is 75th in the 400 meters.
"It's a waiting game now," Jackson added. "We'll have to wait and see who is competing in which event. We're looking forward to it."