June 5, 2012
DES MOINES, Iowa -- There will be strength in numbers for the Wisconsin women's track and field team as the Badgers head to the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships this week.
UW's eight qualifiers are the most for the Badgers in over a decade and the highest total in head coach Jim Stintzi's eight seasons at the helm in Madison.
Only 13 programs in the nation have more entries for the NCAA meet than the Badgers, whose total leads the Big Ten.
The four-day competition gets underway Wednesday and continues through Saturday at Drake Stadium.
UW advanced five athletes through the NCAA West Preliminary Round and also qualified a trio of entries in the heptathlon directly to the national meet.
Final: 8:45 p.m. Thursday
Caitlin Comfort looks to continue a strong postseason run in her first NCAA championships appearance. The junior holds the No. 9 seed in the 10,000 meters after a ninth-place showing at the NCAA West Preliminary Round, where she clocked in at 34:09.99.
Based on seasonal performances, Comfort stacks up No. 13 among the 24 that will toe the line in Thursday's national final. She ran a lifetime-best 33:27.02 at the Stanford Invitational in early April. In fact, 14 of the top 17 times in the NCAA field were recorded at Stanford on April 6.
Comfort opened the championship season with a strong third-place finish at the Big Ten championships in 34:33.13 before clocking in her faster mark at the preliminary round in Austin, Texas, two weeks ago.
Cal junior Deborah Maier heads into the competition as the No. 1 seed at 32:12.47, a time that made her the No. 3 collegian all-time in the event. Iowa State junior Meaghan Nelson is just behind as the No. 2 seed and the No. 4 all-time collegian at 32:14.27.
Final: 4:30 p.m. Friday
One of seven returning qualifiers, senior Monika Jakutyte makes her second-consecutive trip to the NCAA outdoor championships in the high jump and looks to improve upon her 11th-place finish from last year's meet. Jakutyte also was 20th at this year's NCAA indoor championships.
The No. 18 seed, she enters the national meet after matching her outdoor career-best mark of 5-10 3/4 at the NCAA West Preliminary Round to advance to Des Moines. That's the same mark she achieved to score a third-place finish in the event at last month's Big Ten championships.
Jakutyte holds an overall lifetime-best mark of 6-0.
Defending champion and Arizona junior Brigetta Barrett leads the qualifiers for this year's competition at 6-4 3/4. Barrett also claimed the NCAA indoor crown this year at 6-5.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6
5:30 p.m. - Discus (Final)
THURSDAY, JUNE 7
1 p.m. - Heptathlon (100H, HJ, SP, 200m)
Dorcas Akinniyi, Jessica Flax, Deanna Latham
8:45 p.m. - 10,000 Meters (Final)
FRIDAY, JUNE 8
3 p.m. - Heptathlon (LJ, JT, 800m)
Dorcas Akinniyi, Jessica Flax, Deanna Latham
4:30 p.m. - High Jump (Final)
5 p.m. - Shot Put (Final)
SATURDAY, JUNE 9
10 a.m. - Triple Jump (Final)
Final: 10 a.m. Saturday
Jordan Helgren has saved her best for last, extending her senior season by qualifying for her first NCAA outdoor championships. Helgren used her best leap in three years -- a mark of 41-8 1/2 -- to secure the 12th and final qualifying spot for the final at the NCAA West Preliminary Round.
Helgren, who has battled injury that has limited her ability to train throughout the season, needed just one jump to advance, with her leap of 41-8 1/2 coming on her first attempt at the preliminary round in Austin, Texas. The mark has Helgren seeded 23rd for the final.
That performance helped her bounce back from an eighth-place finish at the Big Ten championships, where she saw her streak of five consecutive top-five finishes in Big Ten competition come to an end.
Kansas junior and Big 12 champion Andrea Geubelle leads the NCAA field with her mark of 46-6, a leap that ranks her as the No. 3 collegian all-time in the event. Southern Miss senior Ganna Demydova, the Conference USA champion, is seeded No. 2 at 46-0 1/2, a performance that made ranks her No. 9 all-time among collegians.
Final: 5 p.m. Friday
Taylor Smith is the No. 15 seed in the shot put as she makes her NCAA outdoor championships debut after qualifying with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA West Preliminary Round. The junior is no stranger to national meet competition, however, after qualifying for each of the last two NCAA indoor championships in the weight throw.
Smith's effort of 53-2 1/4 from the preliminary round in Austin, Texas, trails her school-record mark of 53-3 3/4 from the SEC/Big Ten Challenge on March 23. She also set UW's school record in the discus at 179-10 last month.
Based on seasonal marks, Smith stacks up No. 18 in the field, which is led by Oklahoma junior Tia Brooks at 60-7 1/4 -- a mark that ranks Brooks No. 6 all-time among collegians. Illinois State junior Brittany Smith is the No. 2 seed at 58-9 1/2.
Final: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
Kelsey Card heads to the NCAA outdoor championships looking to double up on All-America awards in her rookie season. The freshman was an All-American indoors, finishing sixth in the shot put at the NCAA indoor championships in March.
She looks to repeat that feat Wednesday in the discus, where she will compete as the No. 14 seed after a ninth-place finish at the NCAA West Preliminary Round. Her throw of 171-11 in Austin, Texas, trails her collegiate-best mark of 175-11 -- which ranks No. 2 all-time at Wisconsin -- and stacks up 16th in the NCAA field.
Southern Illinois senior Jeneva McCall -- the 2010 NCAA champion -- holds the top seasonal mark in the field 195-0, with Arizona State sophomore Anna Jelmini ranked No. 2 on the year at 194-1.
Day 1: 1 p.m. Thursday
Day 2: 3 p.m. Friday
After making some history in the Big Ten, the Badgers' multi-events group is doing the same on the national level.
The first program to sweep the podium in both the indoor pentathlon and outdoor heptathlon at the Big Ten championships, UW is also the first to advance three athletes to the heptathlon at the NCAA outdoor championships in more than a decade.
The Badgers' trio of senior Jessica Flax, junior Dorcas Akinniyi and sophomore Deanna Latham is the first from the same team to compete at the NCAA meet since Arkansas advanced three to the national championships in 2001.
Flax, the two-time defending Big Ten champion, leads the way for UW as the No. 5 seed in the event with her school-record score of 5,772 points. The Pearland, Texas, native seeks a second-consecutive All-America award in the event after finishing seventh at last year's NCAA championships.
The same is true for Akinniyi, who was sixth at last year's meet and enters this year's competition as the No. 9 seed with her lifetime-best score of 5,692 points. That performance was good enough for a runner-up finish at the Big Ten meet for Akinniyi, who claimed the conference title as a sophomore in 2010.
Akinniyi is no stranger to All-America laurels after three-straight honors in the indoor pentathlon. She was runner-up at this year's NCAA indoor meet in the pentathlon.
The only person to out-score Akinniyi indoors was national champion Brianne Theisen of Oregon, who also holds the top mark for the heptathlon at 6,353 points -- the No. 3 mark in collegiate history.
Latham makes her NCAA meet debut as the No. 16 seed in the event with her lifetime-best mark of 5,553 points, a total that carried her to a third-place finish at the Big Ten championships and ranks No. 4 all-time at UW.
Besides Theisen, the Badgers also will be chasing UC Santa Barbara senior Barbara Nwaba, who owns a seasonal best of 5,986 points and holds the No. 2 seed. Florida sophomore Brittany Harrell is seeded third at 5,838, with West Virginia senior Chelsea Carrier-Eades the No. 4 seed at 5,821.