UAA's distance demons got off to a strong start at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Thursday, when juniors Susan Tanui and Micah Chelimo won their 3,000-meter preliminary steeplechase heats to lead five Seawolves who advanced to finals.
Tanui clocked the fastest women's steeplechase time by 14 seconds, finishing her prelim in 10 minutes, 44.67 seconds in warm, windy conditions to lead the parade to Saturday's final in the event.
Chelimo ran the second-fastest men's steeplechase time, posting a 9:32.16. In Friday's final, he will be seeking his third straight All-America finish in the event.
Senior Alfred Kangogo on Saturday will also be seeking his third straight All-America honor in the 1,500 meters. Thursday, he generated the eighth-fastest preliminary time in the event with a 4:04.84.
Also advancing out of Thursday's preliminaries were women's 1,500 runner Ivy O'Guinn and women's 400-meter hurdler Haleigh Lloyd. O'Guinn's 4:43.71 placed here 11th and qualified the sophomore for Saturday's final. Lloyd, a sophomore, finished in 1:00.24 to advance.
Also, senior heptathlete Kelsea Johnson sits 14th after the first day of the two-day heptathlon, the grueling test of seven events. Johnson set personal bests in the 100-meter hurdles (14.95) and 200 meters (25.99). Her 2,858 points puts her 14th and UAA coach Michael Friess said Johnson is on pace to match her personal best point total of 4,940 points.
Friess said he was pleased with how the Seawolves performed Thursday and said his athletes didn't seem hampered by conditions.
"Oddly enough, and maybe because we've been to so many warm-weather meets, it didn't seem that bad,'' Friess said.
The only two Seawolves who failed to advance out of preliminaries were senior 400-meter hurdler and former All-America Shaun Ward, who ran 55.25, and senior Hallidie Wilt, who has been to a combined five national cross country or track and field championship meets, and clocked 11:28.58 to close her Seawolves career.