All Ben Saarel had to do was hold his position in order to reach an NCAA outdoor championship heat for the first time.

On Wednesday evening Saarel did just that for the Colorado Buffaloes, finishing fifth in the preliminary heats of the 1,500-meter run to advance to Friday night's finals in Eugene, Ore.

Saarel previously qualified for the NCAA outdoor championships in 2014 and 2015 but was unable to advance out of the preliminaries. He twice has finished in the top eight for CU at the NCAA cross country national championships, helping the Buffs win national titles in 2013 and 2014, yet he remains a junior within the track and field program after redshirting last spring.

Saarel entered the preliminaries as the No. 4 seed and essentially held that slot, finishing fifth in the opening heat with a time of 3 minutes, 40.71 seconds. Given the top two finishers in each heat qualified for the Friday final alongside the next eight finishers overall, Saarel still had to wait through the second preliminary heat before his place in the final was assured, but he maintained the No. 5 time overall.

The action will pick up on Thursday for the Buffs, who will have five athletes competing in three different events. Dani Jones gets things started in the semifinals of the women's 1,500 meter run at 5:46 p.m. MDT. Just 16 minutes later Madison Boreman and Sage Hurta take off in the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinal, with Erin Clark and Makena Morley hitting the starting line about two hours later in the championship final of the 10,000-meter run.


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