DES MOINES, Ind. — Junior Jacob Smith of the High Point University men’s track & field team placed 10th in his heat and 19th overall in the semifinals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Thursday evening at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. Smith was HPU’s first NCAA qualifier since 2004.
“Jacob engaged in this race and ran well through about 1,200-meters,” said HPU head coach Mike Esposito. “He could have finished better today but this was still a great accomplishment for the program to be competing here. The barrier is down, we had someone competing in the NCAA Championship.
“Now we need to take the next step and come back with multiple people and have our athletes mix it up. Jacob has been exposed to this level of competition. He can come back with that experience. We have several other athletes who can get here next year.”
Smith ran mid-pack in the first several laps of the race. As it spread out about four laps in, Smith hung on to the lead group but couldn’t gain ground as the race developed. He was around 10th position with three laps to go and ended up finishing 10th in 8:53.00. It was his second-best time ever.
Henry Lelei from Texas A&M led most of the race before Cory Leslie of Ohio State and Tom Wade from Lamar passed him with under two laps to go. Lelei took the lead back just before the final water jump and cruised to victory with a winning time of 8:39.09. Indiana’s Andrew Poore was the fifth and final qualifier in Smith’s heat, running a time of 8:42.50. Donn Cabral of Princeton won the other heat in 8:38.12.
Smith set a High Point record of 8:47.09 at the NCAA Preliminary on June 6 in Jacksonville, Fla., placing 12th to qualify for the NCAA Final. He won two events at both the Big South indoor and outdoor meets and set career bests in every
event he ran this spring. Smith set and HPU record of 8:13.87 in the 3,000-meter and career bests of 3:46.65 in the 1,500-meter and 14:01.66 in the 5,000-meter.
The steeplechase has become a feature event for High Point. Along with Smith, the Panthers had junior Dakota Peachee run a career-best 8:55.44 at the NCAA Preliminary. Sophomore Patrick Crawford ran a season-best 9:05.99 and ranked 62nd in the East. HPU also has multiple recruits who have run the 3,000-meter steeplechase, including Benji Szalai who has a career-best of 8:56.51.
“We have several steeplers in this group who can help each other get to the national level,” said Esposito. “That’s the exciting thing, we multiple kids who can run under 8:50 and that can step up everybody’s game.”
The meet concluded the collegiate season for the Panthers. Smith will compete in the Canadian Track & Field Trials in Calgary, Alberta, June 27-30 and freshman Christian Spaulding will compete in the javelin at the U.S. Junior National Championship on June 15 in Bloomington, Ind.