The University of Kentucky’s track and field team is set to host the NCAA East Preliminary Championships this weekend, starting on Thursday and ending on Saturday.
The East Preliminary Championships are essentially the first qualifying rounds for the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., on June 7-10. Similarly, there is the West Preliminary Championships being held in Austin, Texas this weekend.
Each regional preliminary will send the top 12 athletes from each event to the NCAA Championships. However, in the decathlon and the heptathlon, the top 24 declared athletes have already received their entry into the NCAA Championships.
UK junior Tim Duckworth will be the first of UK’s many likely qualifiers, as he was one of the top 24 decathletes who will advance to compete in Eugene. Duckworth posted the fourth best decathlon score this outdoor season, and finished second in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships last March.
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Athletes to watch
Along with Duckworth, UK will have a handful of athletes competing for qualifying spots in Eugene, especially on the No. 7-ranked women’s team.
▪ Senior Destiny Carter will run in the 100- and 200-meter dash, where she is ranked in the top five in both races regionally. Carter’s better event is the 100, which begins Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
▪ Senior Javianne Oliver will also compete in the 100, where she is ranked No. 7 regionally. Oliver took second place in the 60-meter dash at the Indoor Championships, just .02 behind national champion Hannah Cunliffe of Oregon.
▪ UK sophomore Jasmine Camacho-Quinn will begin defense of her 2016 NCAA title in the 100 hurdles on Friday at 4:30 p.m. She is ranked No. 2 in the East this season with a time of 12.69 seconds.
▪ The men’s 100 is expected to be a highlight race, as six of the top seven times posted this season came from athletes in the East region, led by Christian Coleman of Tennessee, who posted the fastest time this season at 9.93 seconds.
Coleman also posted the second fastest time nationally in the 200, but is ranked No. 1 in the East. Coleman won the 60 and 200 at the Indoor Championships.
▪ Tequan Claitt, formerly of Bryan Station High School and now competing at Eastern Kentucky, posted the top mark in the high jump this season and will look to qualify for the national championships for the first time in his career.
Claitt broke EKU’s school record in the high jump this season with a leap of 7-5 3/4, eclipsing a record that had been in place for 35 years. His event begins at 6 p.m. Saturday.
▪ The LSU women’s 4-by-100 relay team, which tied the NCAA record at the SEC Relays, will compete at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Teams to watch
While this meet is mostly about individuals qualifying for the national championships, it is still important for contenders to advance their top athletes if they have hopes of winning the team championship in Eugene.
UK will send 24 females and 20 males to the preliminary rounds. The 24 females representing the Cats are the seventh most entries nationally and the third most regionally behind Arkansas and Florida.
On the men’s side, Texas A&M has the most entrants in the East region at 27.
EKU will send a school-record 10 athletes to the preliminary rounds and WKU will also send 10 athletes and two relay teams to Lexington.
Where and when
The East Preliminary Championships are set to begin Thursday, with field events starting at 11:30 a.m. and track events getting underway at 4:30 p.m. On Friday, action begins with fields events at 2 p.m. and track events at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, field events start at 2 p.m. and track events at 6 p.m.
The action will take place at UK’s Outdoor Track and Field Complex on campus. Single session tickets range from $10-15, while all-session tickets cost an$25-35.
For fans not able to attend, the meet can be seen online through SEC Network Plus (WatchESPN.com).
Chris Leach: 859-231-1326, @chrisleach250
NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships East Preliminary
Where: UK track and field complex
Thursday: Field events begin at 11:30 a.m., track events at 4:30 p.m.