Run faster. Jump higher. Throw farther. That was the mantra for 48 athletes in their respective events this past weekend as they converged in Fayetteville, Ark. to battle for a spot in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Finals.
The Weber State track and field program sent six athletes in search of getting the golden ticket to Tracktown USA. A season removed from the All-American performance of Amber Henry Schultz, the Wildcats found some new faces toeing the line with some of the best in the nation.
Tiffany Hellstrom started the meet off with a bang in the women’s javelin competition, recording a throw of 156 feet 8 inches, the third best mark of her career. That throw was good enough to earn her 11th place, which qualified her for nationals for the first time in her collegiate career.
The senior had qualified twice for the regional meet but only managed to place as high as 15th. This was a breakthrough that not only Hellstrom knew was possible but the coaching staff knew was just a matter of time.
“I was really excited for Tiffany Hellstrom who will be going to Nationals in Eugene, Oregon next week,” said women’s track and field head coach Jim Blaisdell. “She has had several injuries and a major surgery and it’s exciting to see her finish her career in style by participating at the National meet . . . She has worked through thick and thin kept plugging away and finished in style.”
Hellstrom was the only one of the six Wildcats that qualified for Nationals, but that did not mean that their performances were not noteworthy. Taylor Ward, another senior, who entered the meet just weeks removed from winning her first Big Sky conference in the 10,000 meters, battled her way to a 20th place finish with a time of 35:11.49 .
The women’s team had two more participants as Jamie Stokes ran a near personal best, 4:25.16 in the 1,500 meters. Due to the outstanding competition in the West Region, the time placed her 30th overall. While Jazmin Porter placed 40th overall in the discus with a mark of 150 feet 10 inches.
On the men’s side, Jonathan McUne hoped to crack the top 12 in the 110 hurdles, while freshman Anthony Gregory hoped to build on an already outstanding freshmen year in the high jump.
McUne finished 44th overall, as his time of 14.69 seconds was not enough to get him through to the next round. That finished the year for McUne, a year in which he ran the fourth fastest time in school history in the 110 meter hurdles (14.21 seconds).
Gregory, who entered the meet as the freshman record holder in the high jump, was unable to post a height. That also finishes his season, but the future is bright for him in the high jump.
“It is just an incredible feat for these athletes to have gotten this far,” said men’s track and field head coach Dan Walker. “They were one of the top 48 performers in the whole western region. It was a great experience for the younger athletes as they now know what it takes to compete against the best.”
Hellstrom will travel to the NCAA Championships taking place in Eugene, Ore. on June 11-14. The women’s javelin throw finals will occur on June 11, beginning at 5:15 p.m. PDT.