May 29, 2014
FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas - Three Owls punched their tickets to the NCAA Championships on Thursday by finishing in the top 12 at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds on day one of the meet on the campus of Arkansas. McKenzie Johnson, Cali Roper and Claire Uke all kicked off the postseason by finishing in the top 12 in their respective events at John McDonnell Field with still four events remaining over the next two days of competition.
"Tonight was a pretty special night going three-for-three in advancing our girls to Eugene," Rice women's track and field head coach Jim Bevan said. "Claire had a huge throw and just continues to get better and better. McKenzie fought through some elements that always occur in the pole vault and stuck with it and found a way to earn a spot. And Cali was just incredible, moving up 10 spots and earning a trip to Oregon as a freshman really says a lot. It's pretty neat to be sending a freshman, sophomore and junior to the next round."
Uke, a junior from Cedar Hill, Texas, saved her best for last with a throw of 17.16m (56-3.75) in the shot put on her final attempt to place second overall behind only Iowa State's Christina Hillman (17.37m). Uke's throw fell just shy of her personal best throw of 17.18m set at this year's C-USA Championships. Uke advances to Eugene for a second straight season.
Johnson, from San Diego, California, converted a height of 4.04m (13-3.00) to clinch the 12th and final qualifying spot in the pole vault to advance to her first-ever NCAA Championships. The sophomore got a bit of revenge from her freshman campaign when she NP'd at least year's West Preliminary Round in Austin.
Roper finished the evening by placing 12th on the first day's final event, climbing 10 spots from the start list with a time of 34:33.16. She finished nearly eight seconds ahead of Oregon State's Kinsey Gomez, who placed 13th.
The Owls still have four total competitors remaining with three set to compete on Friday. Uke will begin the day looking to advance in the discus at 3 p.m., followed by Daisy Ding in the triple jump (5 p.m.) and Heather Olson in the 3000m steeplechase (9:30 p.m.). Sophomore jumper Belle MacFarlane will then compete on Saturday at 6 p.m.