NCAA Track: BYU's Weirich, WSU's Henry among favorites at championships
BYU pole vaulter Victor Weirich and Weber State's Amber Henry return to the NCAA Outdoor Championships with an opportunity to recapture All-American honors.
Weirich and Henry are among about a dozen collegiate competitors from Utah who will compete at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., Wednesday.
Henry is making her second consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships. She earned a place on the All-American second team in the steeplechase last year and enters Wednesday's meet ranked fourth in the country.
Earlier this season, she posted a career-best time of 9 minutes, 51.55 seconds, the second-fastest time in WSU history.
"Amber has had a terrific year and certainly has a great chance for a top five finish this week," Weber State coach Paul Pilkington said. "There is a clear-cut favorite in the event but then several athletes are very close, including Amber. She can improve on her best time and has a great opportunity to do that this week."
Henry's teammate John Coyle will also run in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
For the third consecutive season, Utah's All-American Amanda Mergaert will compete in the 1,500. The senior qualified in Austin, Texas, at the NCAA Preliminaries and ran the fastest time in the trials, winning her heat in 4:19.08.
Weirich qualified for the finals on the last day of competition at the NCAA West Preliminary. He became the fifth member of the BYU men's track and field team to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Weirich made it with a vault of 17 feet, 8.5 inches. He returns for the first time since 2011, when he finished fourth to earn All-America honors. Weirich will be joined by Ryan Waite (800 meters), Curtis Carr (steeplechase), Jared Ward (10,000 meters) and Tylor Thatcher (10,000 meters).
Sprinter Will Henry and sophomore high jumper and heptathlete Chari Hawkins represent Utah State. Henry will compete in the semifinals of the 100 meters Wednesday. The heptathlon begins Thursday at 2 p.m. and concludes Friday. Hawkins will also compete in the high jump finals Saturday.
Also, Southern Utah's Nate Jewkes will make his second national appearance this season, running in the men's 10K Thursday night. Jewkes, who qualified for the outdoor championships by way of a sixth-place finish at the NCAA First Round two weeks ago, has some big running shoes to fill. Last year, Southern Utah's Cam Levins won the 10K and 5K and two All-American citations.