March 2, 2013
AMES, Iowa/SOUTH BEND, Ind./BLACKSBURG, Va. - The Purdue track and field teams competed in events all across the country on Saturday. The team had individuals in the Iowa State Qualifier, the Alex Wilson Invitational hosted by Notre Dame, and the Virginia Tech Qualifier.
Jakob Engel had the biggest day for the Boilermakers. The senior thrower won the shot put competition at Iowa State with a huge personal record. Engel threw 19.16m (62-10.50) to win the event by 2'01.75". His previous best was 18.41m (60-05.00) which he threw at this season's Gene Edmonds Cup. His mark Saturday not only won the competition, it also is second best in Purdue history. He is the third different Boilermaker man to crack the school's top five this season. Engel passed Chris Brown's previously second-best mark in Purdue lore of 18.96m (62-02.50) which he threw in 2001. Nedzad Mulabegovic, a multi-time Olympian, holds the school record with a distance of 19.94m (65-05.00) which he threw in 2005.
Engel's throw also ranks 12th in the country this season and qualifies for the NCAA Championships which are next weekend. The top 16 in each event are eligible for the championships.
Chukwuebuka Enekwechi and Coy Blair were also in the competition. Enekwechi finished sixth with a throw of 18.03m (59-02.00) and Blair finished seventh with a best of 17.76m (58-03.25). Enekwechi's season best is 18.66m (61-02.75) which is good for the nation's No. 21 throw. Blair is No. 22 in the nation with a personal best of 18.58m (60-11.50). The freshmen are no quite high enough to qualify for the NCAA Championships, though they do finish as the No. 2 and No. 3 freshmen in the country for the event. The top freshman is Nicholas Scarvelis of UCLA who is No. 20 in the country with a throw of 18.69m (61-04.00).
Enekwechi will qualify for the championships in the weight throw. He did not compete this week because he has the nation's No. 5 throw with a distance of 21.90m (71-10.25) which he threw at the Big Ten Championships. He is the top freshman in the event.
Dani Bunch also made the trip to Iowa State and competed in the shot put. She took fourth in the event with a distance of 15.78m (51-09.25). Her best on the season is 16.70m (54-09.50) which she threw at the Indiana Relays. That distance is 18th in the country. Though not top 16, she does have a slim chance to make it to NCAAs in the event. That is because she is No. 5 in the country in the weight throw with a distance of 21.61m (70-10.75). The selection committee occasionally allows for such exceptions when an individual has already qualified in one event and is very close in another.
"I am really happy for Jakob to push his way into the NCAA Championships," head coach Lonnie Green said. "I am really proud of him as a senior and it's a great way to go out as a senior. Hopefully he can replicate today's performance. I am excited for Chuck to get his opportunity in the weight throw. This is a great experience for him and I truly believe he has a chance to win the whole thing. I am excited for Dani Bunch to have her shot in the weight throw. She also has an outside chance to qualify at shot. The committee sometimes takes the next on the list in an event if they have qualified in another event already. Since Dani is two off the list, she may not make the cut. If a shot putter declares only in the weight, then she should have a chance. I think she will do big things either way."
Eric Harris was the only other Boilermaker at Iowa State. He ran in the 200m and finished second overall with a time of 21.74 seconds. His season best is 21.52 seconds. To qualify for the NCAA Championships this year in the 200m dash, runners had to have a time of 20.91 seconds or better.
At the Alex Wilson Invite, Ciana Tabb ran the fourth-fastest time of her career in the 60m hurdles. She finished 11th in the event with a time of 8.54 seconds. That time is just .09 second off her career best and .02 second off her second-best time. This year's qualifying time, based on top 16 in the event, was 8.20 seconds.
The women's 4x400m relay team ran a great race at Notre Dame. The team of Taylor Morrison, Ciana Tabb, Aarin Jones, and Bre'Anna Smith ran a time of 3:40.27. That time is the second fastest in Purdue history and just 0.17 second off the school record. The last team to qualify for the NCAA Championships this season ran a 3:35.55. The men's relay team also competed at Notre Dame and finished 15th with a time of 3:12.11. They will not qualify for the NCAAs.
Nikki Nunn had a personal record in the long jump on Saturday at the Virginia Tech Qualifier. She leapt 6.11m (20-00.50) to finish sixth in the event. That ranks as 43rd in the nation. Brandon Winters made it to the semifinals in the 60m hurdles after finishing 10th in the prelims with a time of 8.12 seconds. From there, he again finished 10 with a time of 8.09 seconds and did not qualify for the finals. Cierra Brown was the only other Boilermaker to compete on Saturday. She finished 18th in the triple jump with a distance of 11.69m (38-04.25).
Two Boilermakers qualified for the NCAA Championships that did not compete this weekend which brings the total to five. Vanessa McLeod has the ninth-best time in the 800m run which she ran to win the Big Ten Championship. Her time is 2:05.21. Geoff Davis also qualified as he is tied for the sixth-best high jump in the country with a height of 2.26m (7-05.00).
"I am excited about Vannesa going with the ninth-best time and Geoff Davis with one of the best high jump marks," said Greene. "The key now is to do what we did to get to the championships. If we can do that, because of the intensity of the competition, I believe we will rise and make the finals and score in the competition."
The NCAA Championships are next weekend, March 8-9 in Fayetteville, Ark., a place coach Greene knows well. Greene was with the Arkansas track and field program for 16 years prior to joining Purdue last fall.
"Arkansas was my home for the last 16 years," Greene added. "I am excited to go back and see the kids I recruited and worked with for years. I am glad to see they are doing well and know that I left the program in better shape than when I got there. However, I am a Boilermaker now. I am going in excited that we can take five kids to the National Title. Every one of our five has a chance to win a National Title in their event. I'll greet lots of people and give them a big hug and smile, but I am a Boilermaker. I am going back as a proud Boilermaker and we are going to go in and be the best we can be. I am proud of the group I left at Arkansas, but we have some of the best kids in the country traveling in their respective events for Purdue. I am going to go there and do the job I was hired to do and have us compete for National Championships. I am very excited about that."