Pac-12 athletes off to fast starts at NCAA track & field regionals

The West Regional of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships began Thursday in Austin. Hosted by the University of Texas, the event saw the entire conference represented. In the first session, events included throwing and jumping preliminaries. On the men's front, things got started with the discuss, long jump, and high jump. The Pac-12 saw seven athletes advance amongst these participants. Not included in that group, however, was USC's Marqise Lee, winner of the 2012 Fred Biletnikoff Award which is given the nation's top receiver. The football standout produced the 25th longest jump eliminating him from the competition. The top sixteen jumps advance. There were two women's events in session one: hammer throw and long jump. Chelsea Cassulo, the Sun Devil hammer tosser, led the way in that event with the top throw, easily advancing to the finals. Joining her to compete in the regional hammer finals are five other Pac-12 representatives. Six other Conference competitors are also headed to the long jump finals. The top hopper from the Pac-12, Christabel Nettey of ASU, missed the top qualifying jump by a mere 0.02m for a solid second place finish.

[Related video: Arizona State's Christabel Nettey claims Pac-12 long jump title]

And with session two taking stride, so too did the runners. In the sprinting events (100 meter and 400 meter), the Pac-12 will advance 21 total sprinters. For the women's events, English Gardner, the Oregon Junior took the top prelim time in the 100 meter dash. She covered the distance in just 11.08 seconds. Her teammate, Jenna Prandini, will also be dashing in Saturday's finals. When they put the hurdles on the track, Reggie Wyatt was the Conference's top male finisher in the 400 meter event. He sprinted and jumped his way to the finish line in 50.96 seconds. He'll be competing against fellow Pac-12-mates, Clifton Leake (Arizona) and Randy Bermea (Cal) for a chance to advance to the nationals in Eugene. For the women, Arizona's Georganne Moline was the swiftest Pac-12 representative, taking just 56.30 seconds to cover the 400 meter hurdles course. Four others from the Conference will join her on Saturday in the hurdle finals. And following all of that quickness, the distance runners took to Mike A. Meyers Stadium.

[Related video: Oregon sweeps 2013 Pac-12 track and field titles]

The 800 meter prelims saw two Stanford women finish amongst the top four qualifiers. Amy Weissenbach and Justine Fedronic advanced with the second and fourth fastest times, respectively. Also moving on to the finals were six other Pac-12 reps, including another Cardinal runner, Claudia Saunders. The men's 800m run was won by Oregon's Elijah Greer with a time of 1:48:22. Nearly doubling up the distance, the 1500m competition was dominated by Pac-12 men. Of the 24 runners to advance on Thursday, eleven hailed from Pac-12 schools, lead by Todd Wakefield of Washington State. The Cougar junior covered the course in 3:47:31. When it was the women's turn, the Pac-12 took the top two spots. Utah's Amanda Mergaert and ASU's Shelby Houlihan won the first and third heats. The conference will be represented by seven runners in the women's finals. And while they say they save the best for last - and it may hold true - in Thursday's track events, they saved the lengthiest for last.

[Related video: Arizona's Lawi Lalang wins Pac-12 10k title in first attempt in that event]

The 10k was the longest distance any runner ran on Thursday and wasn't won by anyone from the Pac-12. But that's not to say the conference wasn't well represented. In the men's event, two members of the Pac-12 advance. Lawi Lalang of Arizona and Parker Stinson of Oregon will be running in Eugene for a chance at the title. In the women's event, a Duck and a Wildcat are also advancing as Jordan Hasay (Oregon) and Jennifer Bergman (Arizona) finished third and twelfth, respectively. But they won't be alone. Also advancing to Eugene is Megan Goethals of Washington with her tenth place finish. The regionals continue on Friday at noon in Austin.

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