DES MOINES, Iowa — Two Weber State track and field athletes are headed to the NCAA Outdoor Track Championships this week at Drake University.
Amber Henry and Mike Hardy will compete in the steeplechase event at the NCAA meet, along with 14 other Utah athletes.
Also, Ogden natives Luke Puskedra and Lauren Crockett will compete for the University of Oregon in their specialties.
Henry, a junior from Mountain View, Wyo., will compete in today’s women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals. The top 14 will advance to the finals on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
Hardy, a sophomore from Morgan, will run in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals ont Thursday, with the finals set for Saturday at 10:52 a.m.
Henry enters the meet with the fifth best time in the country in the event. Earlier this season she posted a time of 9:53.94, which ranks as the second best time in Weber State history. That time has also qualified her for the US Olympic trials.
Hardy posted a career best time of 8:51.66 in the NCAA first round meet two weeks ago to finish 12th overall and qualify for the nationals. He enters the meet with the 20th best time of those entered.
Meanwhile, the Florida men’s track and field team has seemingly accomplished everything except for a national outdoor title.
The star-crossed Gators have finished in second place four times since 2004, and last season they wound up third after losing in the final race of the meet.
But Florida has three straight indoor national titles to its credit and is once again among the favorites to win this year’s meet.
Texas A&M’s men and women have won the last three national outdoor titles, but most expect that streak of pulling off double titles to end in 2012. The Aggie men appear to stack up equally with Florida State and Florida, which can’t afford to focus on their past inability to break through at the outdoor meet like they have indoors.
“It’s not something that we talk about a lot, to be honest with you,” Florida coach Mike Holloway said. “Am I losing sleep over it at night? No.”
On the women’s side, Oregon’s resume is very similar to Florida’s, for better or worse.
The Ducks have also won three straight national indoors titles, but they haven’t taken the outdoor trophy back to Eugene since 1985. Oregon faltered last year in Des Moines as a favorite, but the Ducks are stacked in 2012.
They’re led by distance star Jordan Hasay, sophomore sprinter English Gardner, defending 800 champion Anne Kesselring and heptathlon star Brianne Theisen, a three-time indoor champion in the pentathlon.
BYU will send eight athletes including former Roy hurdler Chris Carter and ex-Davis distance runner Jared Ward. The other men’s entries are Miles Batty, Alden Bahr and Ryan Waite, along with relay competitors Jason Hinds, Shaquille Walker and Cade Lindahl.
On the women’s side, BYU will be represented by runners Lacey Bleazard and Nachelle Mackie and field event performer Allyson Anderson.
Utah’s Brianna LeRoy and Amanda Mergaert will also compete, along with Southern Utah distance ace Cameron Levins.