Junior Jacob Smith of the High Point University men’s track & field team competes in the NCAA Championship in the 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals on Thursday at 8:25 p.m. Eastern at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. Smith is the first HPU men’s track athlete to qualify for the NCAA Final since 2004.
There are two semifinal heats of the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Thursday. The top five finishers from each heat plus the next four best times advance to the final, which is set for Saturday at 12:52 p.m. Eastern.
Smith was the 12th and final qualifier in the NCAA Preliminary in Jacksonville, Fla., on May 25. He ran a career-best and HPU-record time of 8:47.09 in the preliminary round. That time ranks him 18th out of the 24 competitors entered in the semifinals. Along with Jacksonville, the other NCAA Preliminary was held in Austin, Texas.
Of the 24 steeplechase competitors, nine are returners from last year’s championship, including six who made it to the final round. Princeton’s Donn Cabral was runner-up last season and has a career-best 8:19.14 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Smith has had a remarkable season, winning two events at both the Big South indoor and outdoor meets while setting HPU records in two outdoor events. Along with the steeplechase, Smith ran an HPU all-time best 8:13.87 to begin the outdoor season with a victory at the Wake Forest Open. Smith also set career bests of 3:46.65 in the 1,500-meter and 14:01.66 in the 5,000-meter this spring. His 5K time was just off the HPU record of 13:59.43.
At the Big South Indoor Championship, Smith won the 3,000-meter and 5,000-meter. At the Big South Outdoor Championship, Smith was winner of the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 5,000-meter. He was runner-up at the Big South Cross Country Championship last fall.
Smith is originally from Brockville, Ontario, and is one of 21 Canadians competing in the NCAA Championship this week. Along with several provincial championships, Smith represented Canada at the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships in the 2,000-meter steeplechase, placing 11th.
Smith is High Point’s first NCAA Championship qualifier since Taylor Milne qualified in the indoor mile in 2004. He set the HPU record of 4:02.18 that season. Milne is also from Canada and represented his country in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.