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CU Buffs track and field sets sights on NCAA West prelims

Several women athletes vying for spots in NCAA finals

Colorado senior Val Constien will be competing at the NCAA West premlins this weekend at Sacramento State.
Courtesy / CU athletics
Colorado senior Val Constien will be competing at the NCAA West premlins this weekend at Sacramento State.

The Colorado track and field team is hoping more than a few Buffaloes athletes will compete for medals at the NCAA Championships in two weeks. That drive begins this week at the NCAA West Preliminaries.

For three days the Buffs will compete at Hornet Stadium at Sacramento State University, with the meet set to begin Thursday at 5:30 p.m. MT. A total of 25 CU athletes will compete in 16 events with an eye toward qualifying for the NCAA finals, which begin June 5 in Austin, Texas.

The CU women’s team in particular, led by steeplechase standout Val Constien, hurdler Gabby Scott, and distance runners Dani Jones, Makena Morley, and Kaitlyn Benner, hopes to send a number of athletes on to Texas.

Jones, the reigning NCAA women’s cross country champion, won her second Pac-12 title in as many attempts in the 5,000-meter run nearly two weeks ago during the league finals. Jones also win the title in 2017 but redshirted during the outdoor track season last year. Jones, who is seeded 16th for the regional, will be joined in the 5K by teammates Morley (10th seed), Benner (18th) and Tabor Scholl (32nd). The women’s 5,000-meter race will be held Saturday night at 9:05 p.m. MT, with the top five from each of two heats, along with the next two best times, advancing to the NCAA finals.

Morley, Benner, and Scholl also will compete in the 10,000-meter run Thursday night.

Among the Buffs’ other top qualifiers are in the 800-meter run, Scott in the 400-meter hurdles, and Constien in the steeplechase.

Mann, who, like Benner, is a local Buffs runner from Monarch High School, is seeded eighth in the 800 after winning the event at the Pac-12 championships. Mann was just the second women’s CU runner to win a conference crown in the 800 and the first since Leigh Ballenger achieved that feat in  1978 and 1980.

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado runner Elissa Mann, right, shares a laugh with assistant coach Billy Nelson during pratice on June 2, 2018.

Constien is seeded eighth in the steeplechase after extending CU’s conference title streak in the event to 11. Scott also is coming off a strong showing at the conference meet in the 400-meter hurdles, besting her own school record with a second-place time of 56.82 seconds.

In field events, Kylee Harr and Michaela Wenning will represent the CU women in the high jump, while Elisa Grandemange will compete in the hammer throw. Wenning and Maja Wichhart-Donzo already have qualified for the NCAA finals in the heptathlon.

The CU men’s team features a smaller contingent, with 10 athletes competing in seven events, but they also will be heavily-loaded in the distance events. Three Buffs will represent CU in the 5,000-meter run — Ryan Forsyth, John Dressel, and Ethan Gonzales — with Dressel and Forsyth also slated to compete in the 10,000-meter run.