May 25, 2013
GREENSBORO, N.C. ------ UAB's 400-meter relay team, along with distance specialist Elinor Kirk, shattered Blazer school records Saturday night at the NCAA East Regional Championships and qualified for the NCAA Nationals, set for next month at Eugene, Ore.
The relay team of Kyana White, Angel Watkins, Shakima Knox and Alexis Bates ran a time of 44.81 to punch its ticket to Eugene, as did Kirk, who broke a 5,000-meter mark she held earlier in the year. They will join teammate Rhiannon Johns who qualified for the 10,000-meter run Thursday night, giving UAB six student-athletes headed at the national championship.
The relay team of White, Watkins, Knox and Bates broke their own record set just two weeks ago when they ran a 45.21 at the Conference USA Championships.
"What an awesome weekend for our track program," said UAB head coach Kurt Thomas "I haven't dug through the archives yet, but I don't think UAB has ever had six athletes qualify for the NCAA Championship meet, and i believe this is the first relay to ever qualify.
"Words almost don't describe how proud i am of these ladies," Thomas said. "We were six of eight with athletes qualifying to Eugene, and were on the verge of having two others, who just didn't have their best day, when their best would have qualified."
Kirk was one of three 5,000 runners Saturday to break the 16-minute barrier and in doing so, became the first UAB in history to eclipse that mark. Kirk, who finished with a time of 15:59.57, broke the mark previously held by Johns at 16:01.24.
Emily Sisson of Providence (15:58.72) and Chelsea Oswald of Kentucky (15:59.20) were the only two runners who edged Kirk in the final standings.
"Tonight, Eli ran a fantastic race, and had a great kick to break 16 minutes, break the school record and solidly qualify. I've been telling the 4x100m relay team that they are good enough to run with anyone in the country, they just have to focus, and execute, and they did that today and secured their spot in Eugene.
"This is a big step for UAB Track and Field, and we're going to go Eugene and represent UAB proudly and not be satisfied with just being there and all six athletes will give everything they have."
Johns, who locked up her spot for the NCAA Championships in the 10,000-meters on Thursday, did not add the 5,000 as a qualifier as she ran a 16:27.93. Sarah Hudak, who ran two races within an hour's time Saturday, ran a 4:35.41 in the 1,500-meter run and later clocked a time of 17:53.64 in the 5K.