May 29, 2014
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Aaron Bennett continued his impressive debut track campaign on Thursday, breaking the 1:50 barrier in the 800 meter run for the third time this year to secure a spot in Friday's race at the NCAA West Preliminary at John McDonnell Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas.
"I feel really good, and I'll be ready to go tomorrow," Bennett said. "At this point, the rankings don't mean that much any more, and I feel that I'm prepared for it both mentally and physically. I just need to finish strong."
Bennett, a graduate student out of Southampton, England, posted the day's fifth-best qualifying time with a personal-best mark of 1:49.18. However, due to the qualifying format, he was forced to sweat it out a bit. Six heats were held with the top three automatically advancing, and then the six-fastest afterwards would earn berths. Bennett was fourth in his race.
Fortunately for Bennett and LU, the other races were markedly slower, and his time would have won all but one other heat on the day. He will return to the track on Friday to try and grab one of the 12 precious spots at the NCAA Championships in Oregon next month.
"I was lucky enough to get in the quickest heat," Bennett explained. "I tried to go for the win in the final stretch, but I got clipped a bit. I was able to stay on my feet and get through. I had to wait it out a bit, but I sort of knew I'd be safe with that time."
Qualifying heats for both Sam Stabler and Saschelle Slaughter weren't as successful. Stabler, who held a lead for much of his heat on Thursday was unable to hold onto it in the final lap, ultimately finishing seventh with a time of 3:44.88. Overall, he would place 27th and just .92 seconds shy of the final spot in Saturday's national quarterfinals.
The race brought Stabler penultimate season to an end, but it was still one for the record books as he helped the Cards to a cross country conference title in the fall and then returned in the spring to win four individual titles and one relay crown over the indoor and outdoor seasons.
Slaughter, a senior, ended her career 47th with a time of 57.14. She ranks as of the fastest quarter-milers in school history. The Houston native is second and third on the LU's indoor and outdoor performance lists with respective times of 55.52 and 54.51, both of which were set earlier this year.
In the final race of the day, Leigh Lattimore finished 26th in the 10,000 meter run. The Pinner, England, native was at an early disadvantage after the 48-athlete pack's tightness caused her to fall. She would get back into the pack but was unable to break into the front part, finishing with a time of 35:25.16, which was 52 seconds behind the 12th and final berth to the championship race.
The graduate student ended her opening campaign for the Red and White with a Southland cross country team championship, a 5,000 meter run individual conference crown and a pair of newcomer of the year awards.
LU's week at the NCAA West Preliminary will end on Friday as the men's 800 will take place at 7 p.m., and then Louise Webb will hit the track at 9:30 for the 3,000 meter steeplechase.