May 31, 2008
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The Purdue men's and women's track and field teams will take one of their largest groups in recent history to the NCAA Outdoor Championships this year after a solid two-day showing at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships, hosted by the University of Arkansas at John McDonnell Field on Friday and Saturday. The Boilermakers nabbed eight automatic qualifying bids for the national meet and have four other athletes with a possibility to snag an at-large spot in their respective fields.
Senior Kara Patterson won her third career NCAA Mideast Regional Championship, marking 53.22 meters (174-07) to top the field. Her victory gave the Boilermakers their first automatic NCAA Championship qualifier of the day, increasing the team total to six. Sophomore Eric Sparks pushed the count to seven with a second-place effort in the men's pole vault, clearing a career-best 5.41 meters (17-09.00). His vault leaves him just shy of the Purdue all-time outdoor leaderboard in the event and ties him for the sixth-highest mark in the country this season.
Junior Ben Pax just missed an automatic bid to the national meet in the men's pole vault, tying Illinois's Andrew Zollner for fifth-place, but losing the jump-off for the automatic spot. However, Pax smashed his career-best, clearing 5.21 meters (17-01.00), and picked up 3.5 team points for the Old Gold and Black. Senior Andrew Rademacher cleared 4.91 meters (16-01.25) to tie for 14th, while freshman Chris Thoman was unable to clear the day's first height.
Freshman Josh Hembrough locked up the Boilermakers' eighth and final NCAA automatic bid of the weekend, taking home third place in the men's 110-meter hurdles. Hembrough's wind-aided time of 13.58 is the second-fastest in school history and the No. 8 time in the nation heading into the regionals.
Sophomore Stacey Wannemacher and senior Ben Harpenau kept their NCAA hopes alive on Saturday as they qualified for at-large bids to the national championships in their respective events. The women's shot put and men's hammer throw Mideast Regional fields both featured 10 of the top-25 marks in the country, including Wannemacher and Harpenau's season-bests. Wannemacher improved her mark and set a new Purdue outdoor record in the shot put, hurling it 16.22 meters (53-02.75) to earn seventh place, while Harpenau recovered from a pair of foul throws to toss his final throw 59.57 meters (195-05) and take 12th. Both are likely to continue to the NCAA Championships as Wannemacher needs the NCAA Committee to take five at-large bids in the women's shot put, while Harpenau hopes for a field of 26 (needing a sixth at-large bid) in the men's hammer throw. Pax carries an outside shot at an at-large invitation to the national championships after his outstanding performance, sitting as the No. 9 at-large qualifier on the national board with today's outstanding performance.
The Boilermaker posted solid team performances on both the men's and women's side as the men amassed 29.5 points to take eighth place, while the women put together 32 points to finish sixth. Louisiana State University took home both the men's and women's Mideast Regional crowns, posting 88 points on the men's side and 119 points on the women's.
The official NCAA qualification lists will be announced next week, and the Boilermakers will head to Des Moines, Iowa for the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships from Wednesday to Sunday, June 11-14.