JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Junior Jacob Smith of the High Point University men’s track & field team punched his ticket to the NCAA Final by finishing 12th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Friday at the NCAA Preliminary in Jacksonville, Fla. He is the program’s first NCAA qualifier since 2005.
“This is a great accomplishment for Jacob and High Point University track & field,” said HPU head coach Mike Esposito. “He responded to every move throughout the race and closed well. He moves on to Des Moines and he’ll be running the Canadian Olympic Trials this summer, so he has quite a bit ahead of him. Dakota Peachee also ran really well in his heat of the steeplechase and Evan Emery competed well in the dash.”
Smith ran a career-best and HPU-record time of 8:47.09 in the steeplechase, claiming the 16th and final qualifying spot for the NCAA Final. He placed fifth in his heat and was one of three time-based qualifiers. Of the 12 NCAA Final qualifiers, nine are seniors this season.
Smith’s 8:47.09 significantly lowered the HPU record of 8:54.24 he set at the Big South Championship in 2011. His previous season best was 8:54.56, which he ran to win the Big South title.
In the first heat of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, junior Dakota Peachee ran a career-best 8:55.44 to place sixth in the heat and 20th overall. His previous best was 8:58.72 in 2010, which was the HPU record at the time. Peachee crushed his season best of 9:02.70 set three weeks ago at the Duke Twilight.
Earlier in the evening, sophomore Evan Emery ran in the second round of the 100-meter dash, placing 18th overall in a time of 10.43. He placed fifth in his heat, which was the only one that went into a slight head wind. Emery qualified for the Friday’s race by placing 12th overall in the first round on Thursday with a time of 10.48.
Freshman Christian Spaulding placed 20th in the javelin with a throw of 63.62 meters (208-8) on Thursday. It was the second-best throw of his career. Spaulding’s career-best 64.45 meters (211-5) was within reach of the 12th place finisher, who threw 66.64 meters (218-7).
“All four of these guys are going in the right direction and they’re all back next year,” said Esposito. “Within the next few years we have a chance to send 4-5 more people to the national meet.”
The semifinals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase are Thursday, June 7 at 7:25 p.m. at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. If Smith advances through that round, he will run in the final on Saturday, June 9 at 11:52 a.m.
Smith is also competing in the Canadian Track & Field Trials in Calgary, Alberta, June 27-30. Spaulding is moving on to the U.S. Junior National Championship and will compete in that meet June 15-17 in Bloomington, Ind.