May 30, 2008
LINCOLN, Neb. - Apparently Ariel Burr isn't quite ready for her memorable outdoor track career to come to a close. The University of New Mexico senior clocked a time of 54.14 to become the eighth and final qualifier in the 400-meter prelims today at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships at Nebraska's Ed Weir Stadium. Burr finished five spots above her seed as she advanced to the 400 finals for the second straight year.
Running out of lane five, the product of tiny Carrizozo, N.M. finished second in her heat behind Texas A&M freshman Jessica Beard (53.06). TCU junior Jessica Clarke - the 2008 Mountain West Conference champion - was the seventh qualifier with a time of 54.03 in heat three.
Burr, who was fifth at the 2007 Midwest Regional Championships with a school record time of 52.85, ensured herself a place on the all-region team for the second straight season after finishing no higher than 20th in her first two appearances.
She will have to run her way back to the NCAA Outdoor Championship meet by recording a top-five finish out of lane one on Saturday. Clarke will be immediately to her right in lane two, while defending champion Kineke Alexander of Iowa will be in lane six.
Last year, however, Burr watched teammate Jarrin Solomon surge out of lane one to finish fifth at the Midwest Regionals in Des Moines, Iowa. Solomon made up the stagger with roughly 120 meters to secure the automatic trip to the NCAA Championships.
The women's 400 finals are scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m. Mountain time.
Unfortunately, the results were not as positive for the other Lobos in early action on Friday.
Sophomore long jumper Alesha Walker jumped under 20 feet for the first time this year, finishing 22nd with a mark of 18' 10" (5.74m) in her regional meet debut. Walker entered the meet ranked second in the event with a school record leap of 21' 4". She had jumped no less than 20' 5" in all four long jump competitions leading up the meet.
Junior Anthony Fairbanks suffered a similar fate as he finished 21st in the javelin with a mark of 190' 3" (57.99m). Fairbanks had thrown over 207 feet in five of his eight meets and over 220 feet twice this spring, including a mark of 220' 11" two weeks ago at the MWC Championships. He entered his third Midwest Regional meet with a career-best No. 3 seed after setting the MWC record with a throw of 224' 11" in late March.
Elsewhere, junior Sandy Fortner - an automatic NCAA qualifier in the heptathlon - was 29th in the long jump (18' 3 1/4" - 5.57m) in her first regional meet. Fortner, however, was scratched from the women's 4x100 relay team due to a lingering knee injury.
The relay foursome of sophomore Kim Perkins, Walker, Burr and senior Kristan Matison went on to finish 11th with a time of 46.32. With a healthy Fortner in the lineup, the group clocked an altitude adjusted time of 45.70 to become the first women's relay team to advance to the regional meet.
Later tonight, senior Jeremy Johnson and junior Mat Ashton run the men's 5,000-meter finals. The race will serve as a tune-up for both men with Johnson already automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 10,000 and Ashton virtually assured a spot in the NCAA field as the 22nd ranked 10K runner.