Thunderbird track and field qualify seven athletes for the NCAA National Championships in Oregon
by SUU ATHLETICS STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS
CEDAR CITY, UT — The Thunderbird men’s track and field program will be sending seven athletes to the NCAA West Preliminaries in Austin, Texas, this weekend with hopes of continuing on to the NCAA National Championships in Eugene, Oregon. The meet in Austin will run from May 25-27.
Last Time Out
Southern Utah’s men’s team had several amazing performances at the 2017 Big Sky Conference Championships that helped propel the team to a second-place finish.
Both Kasey Knevelbaard and Mike Tate were able to claim two Conference Championships as Knevelbaard picked up the title in the 800-meter and the 1,500-meter and Tate secured the top spot in the 5,000-meter and the 10,000-meter.
Senior Jayson Kovar was able to win the discus at the meet and placed second in the shot put.
In total, 16 members of the men’s track and field team earned All-Conference status, which is bestowed upon those that finish in the top-three of their event.
List of Competitors
Kasey Knevelbaard (Sophomore) – 1,500-meter & 5,000-meter
Sophomore Kasey Knevelbaard from Caruthers, California, will be competing in the 1,500-meter and the 5,000-meter in Austin.
Knevelbaard is currently ranked 18th in the NCAA in the 1,500-meter with a time of 3:41.76 that was set at the Stanford Invitational. He is also ranked 29th in the 5,000-meter. Knevelbaard is the school record holder in the 1,500-meter.
Knevelbaard claimed the Big Sky Championship in the 1,500-meter.
Jayson Kovar (Senior) – Discus
Senior Jayson Kovar is seeking his second-straight trip to the NCAA National Championships in the discus, which will be the lone event he will be competing in at NCAA Regionals.
Kovar is currently ranked 25th in the NCAA in the discus with a season-best of 190′ 10”.
Last season, Kovar earned Second Team All-American status in the event, finishing in ninth place with a throw of 189′ 6”.
Kovar won the Big Sky Championship in the discus.
Justin Lewis (Junior) – 400-meter
Justin Lewis will be competing in the 400-meter dash for the Thunderbirds at West Regionals.
Lewis set his best time of the season at the Big Sky Outdoor Championships, running a 46.88 and finishing runner-up in the event. Lewis is coming off a redshirt season indoors and bounced back strong to qualify for Regionals.
Lewis is now No. 2 all-time in the SUU record book in the 400-meter.
Devon Montgomery (Sophomore) – 110-meter hurdles
Sophomore Devon Montgomery will be making his second-straight trip to Regionals, competing in the 110-meter hurdles.
Montgomery competed in the same race at Regionals in Lawrence, Kansas, last season and finished with a time of 14.37.
Montgomery is the school record holder in the 110-meter hurdles.
Jeff Rowley (Freshman) – Javelin
Freshman Jeff Rowley will be making his first appearance at NCAA Regionals in just his first year at the university in the javelin.
The native of Nephi, Utah, set a mark of 210′ to qualify for the field. He is currently 84th in the NCAA and 40th in the West Region.
Rowley was the bronze medalist in the javelin throw at the Big Sky Championships.
Mike Tate (Junior) – 5,000-meter
Mike Tate, a junior from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, will be representing the Thunderbirds in the 5,000-meter at the West Preliminaries. Tate is currently third in the entire NCAA in the event and second in the West Region.
Tate’s top time this season of 13:34.28 came at the Payton Jordan Invitational where he finished behind the only two runners in the 5K rankings, Justyn Knight and Edward Cheserek. He is second in the SUU record book in the event behind only former National Champion Cam Levins.
Tate claimed the Big Sky Championship in the 5,000-meter.
Matthew Wright (Junior) – 10,000-meter
Junior Matt Wright will be competing in the 10,000-meter at the Regional Championships. Wright set the 35th best time in the West at the Mt. SAC Relays with a time of 29:27.91.
Wright was the runner-up in the 10K at the Big Sky Championships to Tate. He is currently sixth in the SUU record book in the event.
Words From Coach Houle
On the youth, SUU is taking to Regionals . . .
“I think that recruiting has been going well across the board with the throws sprints and distance, and this is kind of what you always hope for,” he said. “You hope to have some older people, and some young people, and if you can get them into the first round of the National Championship in their first few years, it builds a stronger athlete and helps you down the road.”
On the advantage of taking three athletes back to Regionals . . .
“This isn’t a new thing for us,” he said. “It’s not the first time we’ve qualified for Regionals, we’ve gone quite a few times, so this isn’t a new situation. The younger people will see how the atmosphere is, and it won’t be a big deal. Seeing them and knowing that others have been there will calm everybody down.”
West Prelims History
Kovar, Montgomery and Tate will all be making a return trip to NCAA Regionals, as they have all competed in the meet before.
Last season, Kovar qualified for the NCAA National Championships in the discus with a throw of 56.92 meters. He went on to earn Second Team All-American status in Eugene.
Montgomery finished sixth in his heat last season with a time of 14.37.
In 2015, Tate competed in both the 1,500-meter and the 5,000-meter. He finished 15th and 24th, respectively.
2017 Outdoor Athletes of the Week
April 3, 2017: Mike Tate (Men’s Track Athlete of the Week)
April 17, 2017: Kasey Knevelbaard (Men’s Track Athlete of the Week)
May 1, 2017: Jayson Kovar (Men’s Field Athlete of the Week)
May 8, 2017: Mike Tate (Men’s Track Athlete of the Week)
Photo Courtesy of SUU
Photo of Matt Wright at Regionals