JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Senior Jacob Smith of the High Point University men’s track & field team won his quarterfinal heat at the NCAA Preliminary on Friday night in Jacksonville, Fla., qualifying for the national championship in two weeks in Eugene, Oregon. Smith ran a career-best 8:44.01 to win his heat.
Smith stayed in the top three for the whole race. He ranked third going into the final lap before kicking past his competitors to win the race. The top three finishers in each heat, plus the next three best times, qualified for the NCAA semifinals.
“Jacob was in control and did what he needed to do tonight,” said HPU head coach Mike Esposito. “He took over on the back stretch of the final lap. I definitely think there’s more in the tank. He can make the final and has the ability to be an All-American in Eugene.”
Smith makes his second appearance in the NCAA semifinals after he qualified in 2012, when he finished 16th in Des Moines, Iowa. Smith redshirted the 2013 season with a focus on his fifth season of eligibility this year. He entered the meet with a career best of 8:47.09 and a season best of 8:57.46.
Senior Patrick Crawford ran a career-best 8:49.48 to finish fifth in his heat and 16th overall in the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Friday, just missing the qualifying mark. Crawford’s previous career best was 8:57.45. Edwin Kibichiy of Louisville placed 12th and was the final qualifier with a time of 8:47.78.
“I was very proud of Patrick,” said Esposito. “He made a great jump tonight. He wanted to qualify so badly. He battled and closed well. He had a shot but came up just short. Patrick has had a heck of a senior year with the Big South cross country championship and PRs in every track event.”
HPU senior Evan Emery closed out his career with his best finish at the NCAA Preliminary, placing 23rd in the quarterfinals on Friday. It was his first appearance in the quarterfinal round. He ran a time of 10.58 to place 20th in the first round on Thursday and ran a time of 10.59 on Friday. Emery closed out his collegiate career with the HPU records in the outdoor 100-meter (10.31) and 200-meter (20.84) and indoor records in the 60-meter (6.83) and 200-meter (22.09).
Sophomore Dennis Crawford placed 43rd in the 110-meter hurdles in his first appearance in the NCAA Preliminary on Friday. He ran a time of 14.46. This season, he set a new career best of 14.28 in the 110-meter hurdles and won that event at the Big South Championship.
“Evan had a rough first 20 meters tonight,” said Esposito. “He has had some amazing accomplishments at High Point University, especially considering the injuries he dealt with in high school. He made it to the quarterfinals here and he has all of our sprint records. Dennis got out slow and tried to make up for it tonight. It wasn’t one of his better days, but it was good that he was here to get the experience for next year.”
On Thursday, junior Christian Spaulding placed 29th in the javelin. His best distance of 61.75 meters (202-7) came on his first attempt.
It’s the third year in a row that High Point has a national qualifier in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Smith qualified in 2012. Dakota Peachee qualified in 2013, when he placed fifth to earn All-America honors. Peachee ran an HPU and Big South record time of 8:43.04 in the NCAA final.
The NCAA Final is at the University of Oregon’s historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, June 11-14. Smith will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals on Thursday, June 12, at 8:35 p.m. (Eastern). If he qualifies for the final, he will compete on Saturday, June 14, at 5:57 p.m.