After this weekend’s Final Qualifier Meets, several members of the track and field team will know if they’ll be competing at the NCAA Indoor Championships, or if they’ll merely be spectators.
The meets, which were previously known as Last Chance Weekend, act as just that for the many NCAA athletes who are on the fringe of qualifying for the national meet.
“It’s very important, a lot of times throughout a regular season you don’t really get to aim specifically on your primary event or maybe it doesn’t go perfectly,” said Penn State head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. “So this gives you one more shot of being able to try and pull it off.”
These meets are contested at several different locations throughout the country; Penn State will be competing at Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Sprinter Bernard Bennett-Green has yet to compete at an NCAA Indoor Championship and is eager for the opportunity.
“To me that’d be huge cause I’m a junior now and I’ve never been to nationals in my three years being here, so that’d be a big accomplishment for me,” Bennett-Green said. “One of my goals for the indoor season was making nationals and running at nationals and doing well.”
Though Bernard hasn’t experienced the biggest stage yet, his twin brother, Brandon, has and will again, competing in the 4x400-meter relay for the second year in a row. Along with Brandon, that squad will likely include the likes of Casimir Loxsom and Aaron Nadolsky, both of whom were instrumental in repeatedly resetting the record for the event throughout 2012.
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t do it this year,” Brandon said. “We lost a big leg in Brady Gehret, but to make it without him would be very, very big for us. And we could show the nation what we could do as a team, and not just one guy.”
Thrower William Barr was likened to Yukon Cornelius from “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Alford-Sullivan because of his prominent red beard. But the likely NCAA Championship returnee has bigger things than facial hair on his mind. Barr is currently ranked 15th, and the top 16 competitors qualify. With a good showing over the weekend he could improve his standing.
“It’s always a goal to strive for, it’s basically the top meet you can qualify for as a collegiate,” Barr said. “It’s always fun, especially with the new challenges. It’s a new event, new year, so this is definitely new ground for me in that respect. I definitely want it.”
The consensus mood amongst the Nittany Lions seems to be confidence, and junior Marlene Ricketts is evidence of that. Ricketts, who took home a silver medal for her performance in the triple jump at the Big Ten Indoor Championships last weekend, seems sure that the Final Qualifier is another challenge she can leap over.
“I’m not nervous at all because I know what I can do and what I can do I’m sure will beat out everybody else that’s going to be there,” Ricketts said.