Kaitlyn Benner, Makena Morley pace CU Buffs track on first day of NCAA West prelims

John Dressel, Ryan Forsyth advance in men’s 10K

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It was a textbook opening day for a big-stakes meet for the Colorado track and field team. And, true to form, the Buffaloes’ distance runners led the way.

The Buffaloes generally met expectations across their lineup while leaving enough in the tank for the races still to come during the first day of the NCAA West Preliminaries Thursday at Sacramento State University.

Senior Kaitlyn Benner made certain her final race in a CU uniform will be at the NCAA Championships in two weeks after placing eighth in the 10,000-meter run semifinals. Benner, who finished in 33 minutes, 44.70 seconds, was followed closely by teammate Makena Morley (33:44.72). Both runners finished in the top 12 in the 10,000-meter run at the NCAA finals last year and will get a chance to repeat that feat when the championships begin June 5 in Austin, Texas.

Also headed to Texas will be John Dressel and Ryan Forsyth, both of whom advanced in the men’s 10,000-meter run. Dressel finished ninth in 29:00.98, while Forsyth nabbed the final qualifying spot at 12th-place (29:03.07).

Among the preliminary heats, senior hurdler Gabby Scott took another step in her quest to become the first athlete from the CU women’s team to qualify for nationals in the 400 meter hurdles, winning her heat and finishing third overall in 57.79 seconds. It was a successful event all-around for the Buffs, as junior Eriana Henderson also advanced to the quarterfinals by finishing 11th overall.

Scott and Henderson will vie for a spot in the NCAA championships in the quarterfinal round Friday night at 8 p.m. MT.

Karina Mann, like Benner a Monarch High School alum, got one step closer to her first NCAA final bid by finishing fifth in the preliminary heats of the women’s 1,500-meter run. Her quarterfinal run does not unfold until Saturday night. Her twin sister Elissa Mann took another step toward a second consecutive NCAA berth in the 800, placing eighth overall in the preliminaries.

On Friday, four Buffs will compete for spots in the NCAA finals — Scott and Henderson in the women’s 400 hurdles; Elissa Mann in the women’s 800; and Val Constien in the steeplechase.