EUGENE, Ore. -
Six Utah State student-athletes are set to compete at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships this week at historic Hayward Field.
"I'm really excited to see how all these kids do," said Utah State head track & field coach Matt Ingebritsen, who also serves as the Aggies' throws coach. "Having six kids go and being the head coach for the first time, and seeing what the men's team ranking is as we go into nationals, it is just a super exciting time for us. I am excited to go and be a part of it."
The four-day Outdoor Finals will begin Wednesday, June 6, and conclude Saturday, June 9. With plans to renovate Hayward Field in time for the 2021 IAAF World Championships, the NCAA awarded the University of Texas as host of the 2019 and 2020 Outdoor Finals.
ESPN has exclusive broadcast rights for the Outdoor Finals. Wednesday's action will be streamed live on ESPN3 from 1:20-9 p.m. (MT), while ESPN2 will broadcast the finals from 5:30-9 p.m. (MT). All times are tentative and subject to change.
Oregon is playing host to its sixth straight NCAA Outdoor Finals. Construction on Hayward Field, which opened in 1919, is slated to begin this summer and be done in time for a 2020 Ducks home schedule.
Heading into the Outdoor Finals, Utah State is ranked 26th in the NCAA Division I Men's Outdoor Track & Field Pre-Championships National Team Rankings.
Four of the six Aggies competing this week come from the men's side in seniors Spencer Fehlberg, Clay Lambourne and Dillon Maggard, and sophomore Sindri Gudmundsson. For the first time in school history, Utah State qualified two women for the Outdoor Finals as juniors Brenn Flint and Cierra Simmons both punched tickets.
Fehlberg, who is making his Eugene debut, will be the first of Utah State's student-athletes to compete, as he will participate in the semifinals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Wednesday at 6:02 p.m. (MT).
"Dillon and Clay have been there the past couple of years and now to have that number increase to four distance runners with five entrants is great," said USU head cross country coach Artie Gulden, who coaches the distance runners during the indoor and outdoor track & field seasons. "It just continues to show that the program is progressing forward. Obviously, we had a great cross country season and a great indoor season. Now, to have these four qualify for the outdoor finals is fantastic. We've just got to keep it going in the right direction."
Fehlberg is the first Aggie on the men's side to ever qualify for the Outdoor Finals in the steeplechase. The native of Huntington, Utah, is ranked 20th coming in and will race in the second of two heats.
"In years past, when you would see the list of people who were headed to Eugene, you would think, `Wow, those are the really incredible athletes,'" Fehlberg said. "I never really thought of myself in that group before, so it's good company to be in. It has always been take one race at a time. We have the semifinals on Wednesday, so the goal will be to make finals and worry about that race when it comes."
The top two five from each heat advance to Friday's finals, along with the two next-best times.
Gudmundsson, who was recently tabbed the Mountain Region Men's Field Athlete of the Year, by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), is back in Eugene for the second consecutive year. He earned first-team All-American honors a year ago by placing sixth in the javelin.
"I am excited," Gudmundsson said. "It is going to be a tough competition, but it will be fun, for sure. The biggest thing that I learned from last year is to stay calm and do whatever I have been doing the whole year, and it should be good. My biggest goal is, of course, to win. Finishing in the top two or top three would be awesome, but I will always go there and compete like I am trying to win the whole thing."
The native of Kopavogur, Iceland, is slated to throw in the second flight of the finals of the javelin on Wednesday night. The first flight begins at 6:45 p.m. (MT). Gudmundsson is ranked second nationally in the javelin with a school-record throw of 80.49 meters (264-1). He is the only athlete in Utah State and Mountain West history to eclipse the 80-meter mark in the event.
Gudmundsson punched his ticket by placing first with a throw of 77.87 meters (255-05) at the NCAA West Preliminary Championships on May 26 at Hornet Stadium in Sacrament, Calif. He is the top seed in Eugene after Mississippi State freshman Anderson Peters, who came into the preliminary rounds ranked No. 1 in the country, only went 74.22 meters (243-06) at the East Prelims at USF Track & Field Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
"It would be massive for him, especially since he's still young only being a sophomore," said Ingebritsen, when asked about the possibility of Gudmundsson winning a national title. "That would be a major feat and for me as the throws coach and the head coach, that would be a major career goal. I have always wanted to coach a national champion. My coach (at Boise State) had national champion javelin throwers, so that kind of inspired me to want to be at that level and now we have that shot. I might have to stop myself from crowd surfing in the stands."
Lambourne is capping his stellar Utah State career by making his third straight appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Finals in the 800-meter run. The 10-time Mountain West champion and four-time All-American placed ninth last year, missing the finals by one spot.
"If anything, the experience of that gives me confidence that I know what it takes to make that top eight, so I know I can be right there with those guys and make the final," Lambourne said. "The goal all season was to make the indoor and outdoor national finals, so it means everything to end my career in Eugene."
Lambourne, ranked 19th in the nation in the 800 meters, will race in the first of three heats on Wednesday at 7:14 p.m. (MT). The top two from each heat advance to Friday's finals, along with the two next-best times.
Rounding out the Aggie competitors on Wednesday is Maggard, who will race in the finals of the 10,000 meters at 8:08 p.m. (MT). The native of Kirkland, Wash., also qualified in the 5,000 meters. He will compete in the finals of that event on Friday at 8:25 p.m. (MT).
"It feels great," Maggard said. "All the training and miles paid off. It was a pretty big goal to qualify in both, so the fact that I actually did it feels really good. I just tried to trust in myself and trust in coach, and the training he gave us. It is extremely gratifying."
Maggard, already a seven-time All-American, is back in Eugene for the first time since 2016, when he placed 23rd in the 1,500 meters.
"I just want to put myself in a position to win," said Maggard, who is ranked 20th in the nation in the 10,000 meters. "I struggled in the 10k at the West Prelims. It is a long race, so I need to be mentally engaged and follow my game plan, and put myself in the right position when the running really starts and try to finish as high as I can."
On the women's side, both Flint (shot put) and Simmons (3,000-meter steeplechase) will be in action on Thursday. Simmons will compete first in the semifinals of her event at 5:32 p.m. (MT), while Flint will take part in the finals of the shot put at 7:10 p.m. (MT).
Fans can follow the Utah State track & field programs at twitter.com/USUTF_XC, on Facebook at USUTrack and on Instagram at instagram.com/USUTF_XC. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
COMPETITION SCHEDULE FOR UTAH STATE ATHLETES (ALL TIMES MT)
Wednesday, June 6
6:02 p.m. - Men's 3,000-Meter Steeplechase - Semifinals (Spencer Fehlberg)
7:14 p.m. - Men's 800 Meters - Semifinals (Clay Lambourne)
8:08 p.m. - Men's 10,000 Meters - Finals (Dillon Maggard)
6:45 p.m. - Men's Javelin - Finals (Sindri Gudmundsson)
Thursday, June 7
5:32 p.m. - Women's 3,000-Meter Steeplechase - Semifinals (Cierra Simmons)
7:10 p.m. - Women's Shot Put - Finals (Brenn Flint)
Friday, June 8
6:54 p.m. - Men's 3,000-Meter Steeplechase - Finals (Spencer Fehlberg)
7:44 p.m. - Men's 800 Meters - Finals (Clay Lambourne)
8:25 p.m. - Men's 5,000 Meters - Finals (Dillon Maggard)
Saturday, June 9
4:54 p.m. - Women's 3,000-Meter Steeplechase - Finals (Cierra Simmons)
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