For the Coastal Carolina men’s and women’s track and field teams, the season and all the training along the way has more or less been leading to this week, this chance to earn a spot among the nation’s elite.
The Chanticleers have qualified 11 athletes with a combined 13 entries for the NCAA East Preliminary Round starting Thursday in Jacksonville, Fla., with the top 12 finishers in each event advancing to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., next month.
Coastal Carolina had one athlete – Reggie Nelson in the high jump – make it to the final stage last year, and all-time seven athletes from the men’s program and 12 athletes and two relays from the women’s program have advanced to the final round.
This week, the Chants are hoping to add more – including a shot to get a men’s relay team through for the first time in program history.
The men’s 4x100 relay of freshman Kahlim Denmark, senior Alexander Hass, senior DeAndra Lipscomb and freshman Therius Styles is considered a strong contender for one of those 12 tickets to Oregon.
“It would be great to get a men’s relay. The men’s 4x100 has made it to this first round meet twice before but never all the way to Oregon. Same thing, we’ve had our 4x400s make it a couple times but just miss going,” Chants coach Jeff Jacobs said before the team departed Tuesday.
“So to get a men’s relay team to Oregon would be a great achievement, and these guys have a great chance. The 4x100 is a very open relay. The three baton passes are critical for every team, all 24 teams trying to get down to the 12 teams to go to Oregon. We’re only a couple tenths away from the 12th place time right now. … But they’ve just got to go out and execute on the day. We know we have the speed on the team to do it.”
That relay is hoping to earn its spot in the NCAA Championships by besting the school record of 40.10 seconds set in 2010. The group’s best time so far this season was 40.26 to win the Big South championship.
“Our chances are really good of getting in. I believe we’re going to go to nationals, definitely,” Styles said. “It means a lot to all of us. Looking at it now, we have a really good chance of getting in and hopefully with a school record time we’ll make it to nationals. … We all have one common goal.”
Denmark mans the first leg of the relay, Hass is considered the strongest runner and takes the second leg, Lipscomb is responsible for the third leg, which is considered the most technically difficult, and Styles is the closer.
“We’ve got to step up, everybody’s got to step up and bring their best performance,” Hass said. “That’s the best competition, the best meet we compete in.”
They get their shot Saturday evening.
The relay isn’t the Chants’ only chance at advancing, though.
Nelson will try to make it through again in the high jump, Hass is also competing in the 100 meters and 200 meters, Denmark goes individually in the 100 meters, Styles is entered in the 200 meters and junior Desmond Wallace will run the 100-meter hurdles.
From the Coastal Carolina women’s team, junior Jessica Gelibert is a strong contender in the 100 hurdles and 400 hurdles, senior Christina Davis is also in the field for the 400 hurdles, senior Letitia Saayman will compete in the 10,000 meters, junior Amirah Al-Bayyinah will go in the triple jump and freshman Chloe White is entered in the javelin.
“This is the most event qualifications we’ve ever had since the two site [preliminary] system started in 2010. We’ve got 13 event qualifications. Looking back the previous high was like seven,” Jacobs said.
“This is a great representation of the entire team. We’ve got a distance runner, we’ve got a thrower, we’ve got two jumpers, sprinters, hurdlers. So we’re representing every area of the team at this meet and this is the highest level of competition. So I’m pretty proud of what we’ve done to this point.
“At the same time, we’re not just happy making it to this meet; the goal is to get to the finals and we have several great chances to make that happen.”
Contact RYAN YOUNG at 626-0318 or on Twitter @RyanYoungTSN.