As usual, it will be the distance runners and a standout steeplechaser that leads the Colorado track and field team into the NCAA outdoor championships.
Yet this season marks the rare instance when those particular Buffaloes athletes will not have to carry the workload by themselves. And Gabby Scott is a big reason why.
The national championships begin Wednesday in Austin, Texas, and the Buffaloes’ overall contingent of 13 athletes ties for the second-most in program history. Typically, the Buffs’ contributions to the championships are small yet meaningful in the distance events. This year, with Scott in tow, CU will compete in hurdle and relay events that aren’t often graced by black and gold.
“We tell our team all year the two meets that matter are the Pac-12 and the national championship,” CU coach Mark Wetmore said. “We want to get as many people through as possible, and we’re very pleased to have people in events other than the distances. Gabby is going to do really well. The relay has a chance to get into the finals. The women could have a good year in the final team scores, and the men can get on the board, I think.”
Scott will make a little CU history by competing in the 400 hurdles while also anchoring the 4 x 400 relay team.
Scott is just the fourth CU athlete to qualify for nationals in the 400 hurdles, and the first since Leona Russell in 1996. That same year also was the last time the Buffs sent a 4 x 400 team to nationals. At the NCAA West Preliminaries two weeks ago, Scott lowered her school record in the 400 hurdles to 56.51 seconds, a mark that is fifth in the nation going into the finals. Scott also ran a stellar anchor leg in the 4 x 400 to help the Buffs advance. Valerie Welch, Eriana Henderson, and Dani Johnson join Scott on the relay team.
“There’s been so much growth in these events,” Scott said. “When I came in, I was the only 400 hurdler. Now we have five-deep and we had another almost get to nationals. We’ve had some PRs and three in the top seven at conference. To qualify for nationals is just showing the whole nation that we’re not just distance runners. We do have a good sprints and hurdles program and other good events as well. And in the 4-by-4, I really wanted to bring my girls with me.”
If Scott qualifies for the finals in both events, she will have earned it. Her semifinal heat in the 400 hurdles begins at 8 p.m. MT Thursday night, while the semifinal heat for the relay takes off just 78 minutes later.
“Luckily I got a lot of good practice in. Pac-12 was similar. I’ve had a couple times where I’ve only had an hour turnaround,” Scott said. “It’s definitely difficult, but I’ll look to my girls (in the relay) and all three legs will be fresh. I just have to get my lungs and my legs back together an hour later and deliver for my team.”
The Pac-12 Conference announced its all-academic teams for the outdoor track and field season, with four Buffs earning first team honors — Welch, Kaitlyn Benner, Michaela Wenning, and Caleb Penner. Joe Klecker and Paxton Smith received second team honors, while 14 Buffs were named honorable mention — Scott, Henderson, Ethan Gonzales, Kendal Smith, Cheyenne Chesier, Elisa Grandemange, Baylee Jones, Dani Jones, Lindsey Koch, Karina Mann, Makena Morley, Drianna Mustin, Tabor Scholl, and Maja Wichart-Donzo.
(All times Mountain)
Wednesday (ESPN2): Men’s 1,500 meter preliminaries (Eduardo Herrera), 5:46 p.m.; Men’s 10,000 meter final (Ryan Forsyth, John Dressel), 8:08 p.m.
Thursday (ESPN2): Women’s 3,000 meter steeplechase preliminaries (Val Constien), 6:36 p.m.; Women’s 400 hurdle preliminaries (Gabby Scott), 8 p.m.; Women’s 10,000 meter final (Kaitlyn Benner, Makena Morley), 8:38 p.m.; Women’s 4 x 400 relay preliminaries (Dani Johnson, Valerie Welch, Eriana Henderson, Gabby Scott), 9:18 p.m.
Friday (ESPN): 1,500 meter final (Eduardo Herrera*), 6:41 p.m.; Men’s 5,000 meter final (John Dressel), 8:25 p.m.
Saturday (ESPN2): 3,000 meter steeplechase final (Val Constien), 4:54 p.m.; Women’s 400 meter hurdle final (Gabby Scott*), 5:57 p.m.; Women’s 5,000 meter final (Dani Jones, Makena Morley), 6:25 p.m.; Women’s 4 x 400 final (Dani Johnson, Valerie Welch, Eriana Henderson, Gabby Scott*), 6:51 p.m.
*Must advance out of preliminaries to reach finals.