Event: NCAA Division I Track and Field National Championships
Where: John McDonnell Field – Fayetteville, Ark.
When: Wednesday through Saturday; all day
Watch: Online: CBS College Sports Network, Friday 4 p.m.; TV: CBS Saturday 10 a.m.
Who to watch: Junior 110m hurdlers Jazz Trice and Polly Gnepa made UC Davis school history last weekend as they became the first Division I athletes to qualify for the Track and Field National Championships. They got there by finishing third and fifth in the West Region, respectively.
“Last year when we had the chance to qualify for NCAA’s, I thought there was no way I could qualify,” said Gnepa. “Now that I did, it’s a reality. It’s weird.“
Not only did they qualify, but the Aggie duo is expected to make a big impact. Trice is seeded 7th, while Gnepa is 13th.
Did you know? Trice and Gnepa aren’t the first elite 110m hurdlers to come through UC Davis. To find their predecessor, one need look no further than current assistant coach Byron Talley.
As a senior in 2002, Talley captured the California Collegiate Athletic Association 110m hurdle title en route to qualifying for the NCAA Division II National Championships. There, he set the then-school record of 14.02 and earned All-American honors despite interference by an adjacent athlete’s hurdle.
Yet all he wants to talk about are the exploits of his current athletes.
“It’s humbling [to coach them],” said Talley. “It feels incredible. To see their potential coming to light is just great. And to see that what they can do is what they are doing, that is what we work for.“
Preview: At 3:50 p.m. on Thursday, Trice and Gnepa will officially begin their run at the national championships. In their quest for All-American honors they will have to advance from the heats on Thursday and semifinals at 5:05 p.m. on Friday before earning the right to compete in the finals at 10:59 a.m. on Saturday.
“I want to see how far I can go,” Gnepa said. “The times aren’t really of a concern at this point, though I know running with the top people in the country will produce fast times.”
While this will be the first time either of them have competed on the biggest stage of collegiate athletics, coach Talley is confident they will be at home competing against the best the nation has to offer.
“I’m looking for them to not get consumed by the spectacle of being at Division I nationals for the first time,” Talley said. “I want them to understand that they belong here and that they’ve earned the right to be there.“
– Alex Wolf-Root