The University of Louisville men's and women's track and field teams collected three additional automatic bids for a total of six to the NCAA Championships en route to a pair of top 10 team finishes on the final day of the 2009 NCAA Mideast Regionals held at Cardinal Park.
"Our team performed extremely well at this regional championship," said U of L head coach Ron Mann. "It would appear we would have 13 or 14 athletes advance to the national championships, the most in school history. It certainly is nice to have this kind of meet right here in Louisville and it was a great day of competition."
The Cardinal women registered 29 points and tied a school record with their eight-place finish, which came a year ago. The defending national champion and No. 3 ranked LSU women scored their fourth straight Mideast Regional title with 85.5 points. The Tigers have won six of the past seven regionals. They were followed by no.7 Tennessee (69), no.10 Michigan (48), Illinois (43), no.17 Auburn (35.5), Indiana (34.5) no.16 Arkansas (33), Louisville (29), Michigan State (25) and Alabama (23.5) for the top ten of the 39 schools that scored.
In the men's race, the Cards picked up 33 points to finish ninth overall. The No. 6 ranked Arkansas men edged no. 8 LSU 90-83 for the regional crown. The Razorbacks last won the Mideast Regional in 2005. Rounding out the top ten of the 43 schools that scored were no.20 Kentucky (46), no.10 Auburn (45), no.23 Mississippi State (44), Wisconsin (40.50), Ole Miss (34), Michigan (34), Louisville (33) and Purdue (24).
The Cardinal men were led by the superb effort of senior Cory Thorne who won the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a school record setting time of 8:36.98. Thorne earned his second trip to the national championships in the event and set a facility and personal record in the process. Thorne will enter the final event of the season with the second fastest time in the country.
"The competition was tough today," said Thorne. "I got to the last lap and he (Josh Karanja, Eastern Michigan) came up on the shoulder. I haven't had that happen this whole year so I just dug deep, pushed as hard as I could and wasn't going to stop until I got to the finish line. It's going to be just like that at nationals, whether it goes fast or slow it's going to come down to whoever has the best kick."
"One of the things that assistant coach Brice Allen and I had done over the last ten days was to do a lot of speed work over the barriers preparing for that last quarter because they come up very quickly and you have to be ready," said Mann. "He did a nice job of executing that and getting through the water jump into the final lap. It was a great pace all the way through. The expectations are up to him, but I certainly believe he's going to contend for a National Championship. "
Others in the 3,000-meter steeplechase were sophomore Matt Hughes and junior Scott McClain. Hughes finished sixth with a time of 8:55.19 and should advance to the national championships as he held the nation's 13th best time coming into the competition. McClain ended his season running 9:30.69 for a 27th place finish.
Senior Andrew Hackney placed sixth with a personal best mark of 189-07 (57.80m), which came on his sixth and final throw. Sophomore Josh Greenwald and redshirt-junior Steven Hnat finished ninth and 12th with distances of 180-11 (55.14m) and 174-05 (53.16m), respectively. Greenwald and Hackney would have the 13th and 14th best marks in the nation as of this weekend and should qualify for the national championships.
"Andrew Hackney and Josh Greenwald did a great job in the discus and should receive at-large bids," said U of L assistant/throws coach Dale Cowper. "The men's discus in this region was incredibly tough. For the throwers to step up and do what they did today, I am really excited for them, our program and the University of Louisville."
In the hammer throw, Hackney finished 10th out of 33 competitors with a toss of 195-10 (59.68m). It was the second best mark of his career.
Leading the way for the Cardinal women was the shot put group who placed all four throwers in the top 12. Junior Jere' Summers finished second overall with a distance of 54-01 (16.48m) and earned her second national championship bid of the weekend. Summers matched the fourth best throw in school history after entering the competition ranked 13th in the region.
"I was so happy that Jere' (Summers) came back and won the regional title in the discuss after everything that she has been through this year," said Cowper. "It was a marvelous experience for her and a great representation of the University. For her to finish second in the shot put today was just outstanding, also the best she has thrown this season."
Also in the shot put, sophomore Chinwe Okoro placed sixth with a toss of 52-08 (16.05m), just missing an automatic bid and personal best. Freshman Khadija Abdullah took ninth with a heave of 51-05.75 (15.69m), while sophomore D'Ana McCarty came in 11th with a personal best throw of 50-07.25 (15.42m). Okoro and Abdullah still have the opportunity to qualify through the at-large selection process.
In the 1,500-meter run finals, junior Tarah McKay earned her second consecutive bid to the national championships. McKay, who held the eighth best time in the region entering the weekend, placed fourth with a time of 4:26.35.
"I feel good about the race," said McKay. "I was not expecting it to run that slow. I was really glad I had trained as hard as I did all season because l still had a kick left. I am happy to advance and I am going to do my best at the championships."
The triple jump saw senior Seidre Forde finish seventh with a leap of 41-06.50 (12.66m). Forde will have to wait to see if her 14th best mark in the nation holds up and earns her an at-large bid.
Junior Rachel Gehret finished the high jump in a four-way tie for ninth place after clearing 5-08.50 (1.74m). Gehret will now have to wait for the at-large selections to be announced on Tuesday to see if she advances to the national championships.
Up next for the Cards will be the 2009 NCAA Championships on June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Ark.