Wichita, Kan. - Eleven athletes will represent Friends University at the 61st Annual Outdoor Track & Field National Championship in Marion, IN from May 24-26. These Falcon athletes look to continue with the success they have experienced throughout the last year.
Excitement amongst the Friends University Track & Field program is very high right now. "We are coming off a historic season of winning all 6 championships this year and I have nothing but positive thoughts going into the National Meet" exclaims Cole Davis, Head Coach of the Women's program. "Our distance and field event athletes have been consistent and powerful all year long and Brad, Billy, and myself are excited as coaches to take this great group of athletes to the National Meet. Overall, this is an exciting time for Friends Track and Field and I believe we are going to do some great things this weekend."
Junior Jordan Arnold makes her third trip to the national meet and is one of the favorites in the 5000 meters where she was national runner-up at the Indoor Championships. Her best time this year is 17:08 which stands as a school record. Arnold has not lost in the KCAC for two straight years and was the KCAC Conference indoor champion in the 5000 meters and the mile as well as the outdoor champion in the 10,000 meters and the 1500 meters.
Junior Karissa Cominator and Sophomore Lindsay Dunham will both compete in the marathon. This will be Cominator's third Outdoor National Meet and the second for Dunham, who placed 43rd last year. Cominator's qualifying time was the third best time of anyone this year, putting her among the list of favorites for the race. She set a school record in the half marathon earlier this year in Houston with a time of 1:23:00 and was also the KCAC Conference outdoor champion in the 5000 meters.
Junior Cecilia Burley will make her first trip to outdoor nationals, running in the 10,000 meters. She won the prestigious KU Relays 10K on a windy night in 36:55, setting a new school record. Burley placed 3rd and was All-American at the indoor nationals in the 3000 meters and was the KCAC Conference indoor champion in the 600 and 1000 meters.
Sophomore Ashley Lyons will be throwing the discus in her first National Championship meet. Lyons was the KCAC champion in the discus outdoors and shot put indoors.
Senior Javier Ceja, in his third straight trip to outdoor nationals, is one of the favorites to win the marathon. He holds the fastest qualifying time going into the race, having run 1:07:50 for the half marathon in Houston earlier this year. He has been named All-American twice in Cross Country as well as in indoor track in the 5000 meters this year. Ceja was KCAC Conference outdoor champion in the 10,000 and 5000 meters this year.
Senior Quentin Benning will be throwing the shot put in his third straight Outdoor National Championship meet. He was the KCAC Conference indoor champion and outdoor national runner-up. Benning was named National field event athlete of the week in April for his outstanding performance at the Friends University Enduro Classic. He holds the school record in the shot put with a throw of 53 feet, 9 inches ranking him near the top 8 in the country.
Senior Kirt Nichols will be throwing the discus in his second outdoor national championship meet. Nichols won the KCAC discus championship for the second straight year. He is currently ranked 7th in the nation with his school record, 168 feet throw.
Junior Michael Gurley's school record, 9:26 mark at the last chance meet in Emporia earned him his first trip to nationals in the steeplechase. Gurley's breakout year included first place in both the steeplechase and 1500 meters at the KCAC Conference outdoor meet.
Sophomore Lewis Taylor's second place and school record time of 54:74 at the KCAC Conference meet was what he needed to qualify for his first trip to nationals in the 400 hurdles.
Senior Daniel Neidlinger qualified for his fourth straight national meet in the marathon, but will be unable to compete due to injury. Neidlinger has had one of the best careers of any distance runner in the history of Friends University.Head Men's Coach, Brad Peterson, echoes Coach Davis' sentiments, "I am very excited about this year's national meet. This is the best group we have ever taken to nationals and many of them have great chances to place in the top 8 to score points and become All Americans. Javier Ceja, Jordan Arnold, and Karissa Cominator all have great chances to be in the top 3 in their events and perhaps come home with a national title. Cecilia Burley, Kirt Nichols, and Quentin Benning should have excellent chances to be All Americans in their events. I think both teams could place in the top 20 teams and this would be our best showing by far in school history."
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