ATLANTA — The Lee University Track and Field teams began the outdoor season Friday and Saturday in the Emory Invitational at the Emory track and McDonough Field. The Lady Flames placed 23rd and the Flames were 16th.
“Moving to the outdoor season, qualifying standards drop quite a bit,” said Lee head coach Caleb Morgan. “It is usually tough for teams to get down to those times. We made a very smooth transition, our athletes had a lot of personal bests and we came away from the meet with 10 national qualifiers and two NCCAA No. 1 rankings.”
The 10 qualifiers were evenly split between the Lady Flames and Flames. Nine came from action on the track, while one came from the field events.
Ashley Matthews started the day off with a national qualifier in the 5,000-meter run. She finished only a few seconds off of her personal best with a time of 19:03.10 and placed eighth.
Ode Fulutudilu finished sixth in the 100-meter dash. Her mark of 12.88 eclipsed the qualifying mark of 13.30.
Jessica Childers ran an NCCAA-qualifying time of 2:20.63 in the 800-meter run to finish seventh. Emily Bryan was 17th (2:26.50) and Storyie Miller was 27th (2:29.30).
Bryan was able to meet the qualifying time for the 400-meter hurdles. She crossed the finish line at 1:09.34 (10th). Emily Arnesen recorded a time of 1:14.07 (19th) and Brianna Prugh was 20th (1:14.64).
The Lady Flames fifth qualifier was Kayla Gash in the discus. Gash exceeded the 35-meter distance needed with a toss of 35.44 meters, which put her in ninth place. She finished 20th in the shot put (10.26 meters).
“Kayla Gash threw very well in the discus today,” said Morgan. “She was the Tennessee runner-up in high school and her talent showed today.”
Emily Carden placed 19th in the 10,000-meter run with a time of 48:40.62. Rachel Riel and Danielle King participated in the 1,500-meter run. Riel was 29th (5:27.52) and King was 40th (5:54.85).
Emmanuel Kipchumba and Adam Gullette both ran personal bests in the 800-meter run, continuing the success they had indoor, and both attained NCCAA qualifying marks. Kipchumba finished second behind Otterbein’s Andrew Mantell with a time of 1:54.22, while Gullette was sixth (1:56.70). Justin Knuth finished 19th (1:59.66).
Mike Walker posted a time of 3:56.89 to place third in the 1,500-meter run. Keenen Hindes finished 45th (4:19.00) and Terris Elliott was 50th (4:20.55).
“It was great to have Mike back in a Lee University jersey,” said Morgan. “It has been almost a year since he has raced and he has been working very hard gearing up for this season.”
Freshman Seth Ruhling joined Walker with a No. 1 mark in the NCCAA this season. Ruhling’s time of 33:09.55 in the 10,000-meter run put him in eighth place.
“The 10K is a very challenging event and he performed well in his first try at the event,” said Morgan.
Camden Perez ran his first 3,000-meter steeplechase and wound up with a national qualifier and third place finish with a time of 9:45.39. Patrick Shultz placed 16th (10:17.87) in the event.
Not only did Kipchumba and Walker post qualifying times for the NCCAA National Championships, they also broke records that had been held by their head coach.
“It was very special having Kipchumba and Walker break both of my school records within an hour and a half of each other,” admitted Morgan. “Both athletes are at a point in their running careers where no matter what meet we attend they will be contending for the win.”
Joseph Crook, Tim Yates and Zach Orrison took on the 5,000-meter run. Crook finished 19th (16:06.16), Yates was 53rd (18:13.57) and Orrison placed 56th (18:32.52).
Mark Cisco took on the shorter distances. He placed 18th in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.57 and was 35th (24.06) in the 200-meter run.
Adam Tauzer was the only Flame to participate in a field event. He finished 26th with a shot put distance of 5.85 meters.
Lee will next travel to Rome, Ga., on Saturday, for the Shorter Relays. The all-day event will be held at Barron Stadium.