Sage Hurta, Micaela Degenero highlight an otherwise tough day for CU Buffs at NCAA finals

Abby Nichols forced to withdraw from 10,000

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Six athletes from the Colorado women’s track team entered Thursday’s action at the NCAA outdoor championships eying opportunities to advance to their respective championship heats on Saturday.

Only two made it through.

Sage Hurta and Micaela Degenero set a strong opening tone for the Buffaloes, but that proved to be CU’s lone highlight on Thursday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Hurta and Degenero advanced easily out of the 1,500-meter run into Saturday’s final, while senior Abby Nichols struggled in the Buffs’ only championship event and was unable to finish the 10,000 meter run.

Hurta and Degenero got the day started for the Buffs by standing out atop a fast opening heat in the semifinal round of the 1,500 meters. Hurta and Degenero finished first and third, respectively, with Hurta posting a winning time of 4 minutes, 8.88 seconds, just a fraction behind her personal-best of 4:08.38 set in April.

Degenero did record a personal-best, finishing in 4:09.38. She and Hurta will compete in the 1,500 final on Saturday at 4:11 p.m. CU’s Rachel McArthur was unable to advance out of the 1,500 semifinals, placing 23rd with a time of 4:22.75.

“Sage ran quite comfortably, a little under 4:09,” CU head coach Mark Wetmore said in a statement. “She looked good to me. I watched her after the race, she wasn’t collapsed or laid out. I think it was a pretty controlled effort for her, and I think she’s ready to go.

“(Degenero) was watching where fifth was and then she felt better maybe than she expected and closed out well. I don’t think she was ever in trouble at all and she had the fastest last lap I think.”

Senior Madie Boreman returned to the NCAA outdoor championships for the first time since becoming the national runner-up in the 3,000 steeplechase in 2017, but she fell short of a return trip to the championship heat. Boreman finished eighth in the second semifinal heat and 15th overall (9:49.28).

The Buffs featured two athletes making their NCAA championship debuts in the semifinals of the 400 meter hurdles, but neither was able to advance to the championship round. Senior Eriana Henderson finished 19th (58.95) while sophomore Longmont native Abbey Glynn finished 21st (59.49).

Nichols, who finished ninth in the 10,000 at the NCAA West Preliminaries two weeks ago, was forced to shut down on Thursday night after about 7,200 meters while battling an apparent injury. Her status remains uncertain for Saturday, when she is scheduled to compete in the championship of the 5,000.

“The injury that she’s been nursing since the regionals was nagging her,” Wetmore said of Nichols’ race. “We’ve been trying to treat it, she had to take a pretty big block of time off. She felt well enough in the last few days to start here today, but it kept getting worse. I don’t know if she’ll be able to run the 5,000 or not there’s a couple of things. First of all, she has to feel ready and second of all, having stopped, now we have to get medical approval for her to continue.”