Four Utah State Track And Field Athletes Bound For NCAA National Championships
June 9, 2009
LOGAN, Utah - Utah State is sending four athletes to the NCAA National Outdoor Track & Field Championships Wednesday-Saturday, June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Ark., hosted by the University of Arkansas. Two seniors and two juniors are heading to face competition from all across the nation.
Seniors Nick Karren (400m hurdles) and Krista Larson (hammer throw) and juniors Casey Parker (high jump) and Steve Strickland (steeplechase) will be representing the Aggies this weekend in Fayetteville.
Larson earned an at-large bid to go the NCAA National Championships in the women's hammer throw, while the other three eared their spots by finishing in the top three at the NCAA West Regional Championships.
"We're ecstatic to be sending four athletes to the NCAA's," veteran USU head coach Gregg Gensel said. "All four are terrific kids and I'm so happy for them that all of their hard work and dedication is rewarded with the honor of representing Utah State at the National Championships."
After not sending any athletes to last year's National Championship meet, this year's four USU athletes matches the number that went in 2007. The Aggies sent a school-record eight athletes in 2006.
"My coach reassured me that there was a good chance that I would get in (nationals), but I was still really nervous," Larson said. "I just really wanted to see it on paper, but once we saw it on paper it was really exciting. I was very excited."
After setting regional qualifying marks at all but two meets she participated in this season, Larson (Kaysville, Utah - Davis HS) was selected to attend the championships. Larson's PR is 196-08.00 (59.95m) which she set at the Western Athletic Conference championships hosted by Utah State, May 13-16. That mark is also the new Utah State school record.
"Just coming in as a freshman, I didn't really know what the hammer was. Coming into college, Coach (USU throwers coach Matt Ingebritsen) kind of introduced it to me and I've loved it ever since. So coming from not knowing what it was to breaking the school record has been awesome. It's been a lot of hard work, but it's been really fun," Larson said.
Larson, who is ranked No. 19 in the country, will begin at Noon (MT) in the qualifying round of the women's hammer throw. If she qualifies, the final round will be held on Friday at 10 a.m.
"I can't even describe how exciting it is. I have worked so hard, and this is what's it has come to, you know, it's kind of the pay off. So hopefully things go well, but I'm really excited," Larson said.
"Krista does have a great work ethic. She's probably harder on herself than anybody ever could be hard on her because when she doesn't improve like she wants to, she basically scolds herself," Gensel said. "As far as ability, she's right there with the top (throwers in USU history). As far as coachability, I would say she's probably been one of the top athletes I've ever coached because she's willing to do what it takes to get better."
Karren (Duchesne, Utah - Duchesne HS) is returning to the NCAA National Championships in the 400m hurdles for the second time in his career, after going as a sophomore in 2007, finishing 16th. Karren is USU's second multi-qualifer for the NCAA's since sprinter D.J. Smith in 2006 and 2007.
"I want to do better than I did two years ago. I want to make it to finals definitely, but I'm feeling a lot more prepared, a lot more relaxed going into the meet. I feel like it's a big advantage for me this year as opposed to two years ago," Karren said.
At the NCAA West Regionals two week ago, Karren finished the 400m hurdles in 50.84 tabbing third-place and earning himself a spot at nationals. Karren's PR is 50.73, which he set at the BYU tri-meet on May 1.
"Nick is willing to do whatever the team needs. He reminds me of (current USU assistant coach) Corey Murdock when he was an athlete, they have similar work ethics," Gensel said. "I can't say enough good things about Nick. He's worked so hard this year to help the team and everything, and now he gets his just due. You know, this is for him."
Karren, who is also currently ranked No. 19 in the country, will be competing in the first round of the 400m hurdles which begins at 5:45 p.m. If Karren qualifies he will continue on to the semifinals which will he held on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Parker (McMinnville, Ore. - McMinnville HS) will compete in the high jump at nationals. Parker's PR height at NCAA West Regionals of 6-11.75 (2.16m) earned him third-place in the event and a spot at nationals.
"It was just a great experience for him (Casey). He got to go to the next level because he qualified. You should have seen how happy he was when he qualified," Gensel said. "I can probably venture a guess that he entertained no thoughts about actually going to nationals automatically. But he did what it took on that particular day to get to nationals. If anybody has worked harder, I'd like to know who it is."
The first round of the men's high jump will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. If Parker advances he will compete in the final round on Friday at 6 p.m.
"Big meets are always really difficult. You always feel that added pressure, especially where it's not the height that matters so much, but the place. So you're worried about missing bars, and that kind of gets to you," said Parker, who has been on an emotional high since placing second at the WAC Championships on May 15, then having his son, Jace, born the next day.
Junior Steve Strickland (Orem, Utah - Mountain View HS) finished second at the NCAA West Regionals in the 3,000m steeplechase earning him a spot at NCAA Nationals. Strickland's PR is 8:42.71 which he not only set at the Ohio State Jesse Owens Open on May 1, but is also a USU school record. Strickland successfully defended his WAC Championship in the event and is currently ranked seventh in the nation.
"Steve is a great athlete. He learns things really fast," Gensel said. "When he came here and started learning the steeplechase, the barriers, the hurdles, those kind of things, he just picked it up really fast. He knows it so well that he's able to relate it in student-athlete language to other athletes. I can tell him how to do it, but he speaks their language. He has improved so much and he's only going to get better."
The men's steeplechase semifinal round is on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m., pending qualification Strickland will advance to the finals which will be held Friday at 5:40 p.m.
Fans can follow the NCAA National Championships by watching live as well as live results, both of which are available through the NCAA web site by clicking on the "Watch Live" and "Live Results" links on UtahStateAggies.com, the official web site of USU Athletics.
Here is a look at USU's athletes' schedules:
Wednesday, June 10 Krista Larson (Kaysville, Utah - Davis HS) Noon (MT) - Women's Hammer Throw - Qualifying