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Virginia track and field triumphs at NCAA East Preliminary Round

Six men and three women advance to NCAA Championships

<p>Senior Kelly McKee advanced to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year after placing fourth in the triple jump competition.&nbsp;</p>

Senior Kelly McKee advanced to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year after placing fourth in the triple jump competition. 

Twenty-nine Virginia men’s and women’s track and field athletes traveled south to Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., to compete at the NCAA East Preliminary Round beginning May 23. 

Out of the fourteen male Virginia competitors, six advanced to the NCAA Championships. On the women’s side, 3 out of 15 Cavaliers advanced.

The No. 15 Virginia men’s team advanced all five athletes in the region’s top twelve, as well as an additional qualifier in graduate student Brent Demarest. Seeded just 21st entering the 10000 meter run, Demarest surprised the field with a time of 28:54.69 and a third-place finish. Demarest now moves up to second on the all-time list.

The Cavaliers’ most consistent performers — senior Hilmar Jonsson, freshman Ethan Dabbs, senior Oghenakpobo Efekoro, junior Brenton Foster and junior Jordan Scott — all got the job done for an opportunity to compete for a national title. 

Jonsson struck first with a win in the hammer throw competition. He took the lead with his opening throw of 72.17 meters and never lost it as he advanced to nationals for the third time in his career. 

The following day, Dabbs earned a fourth-place finish in the javelin competition. The true freshman threw 69.46 meters to punch his ticket.

"Once again Ethan [Dabbs] got the job done on the first throw," assistant coach Martin Maric said. "To see a true freshman come to a stage of this level and use the excitement in throwing in the way he did is something extraordinary. He worked hard and deserves his spot in Austin."

On the last day of the three-day meet, the final three members of the six-person group advanced. 

Efekoro placed tenth in the shot put competition with a mark of 18.77 meters to secure his fourth consecutive appearance at nationals. Foster qualified for the first time in the high jump competition by clearing 2.19 meters for seventh place. Finally, Scott, the reigning triple jump indoor national champion, finished second with a jump of 16.48 meters to advance for his third consecutive year. 

"The week was pretty much chalk, which rarely happens in advancing to the finals," Director of track and field Bryan Fetzer said. "We've had a great outdoor season with an amazing assembly of young men. They're great ambassadors for U.Va.”

At the same time, the Virginia women’s track team found great success of their own. Three athletes — senior Bridget Guy, junior Andrenette Knight and senior Kelly McKee — qualified for the NCAA Championships.

Guy boldly cleared 4.17 meters on her first attempt to tie for first place in the pole vault competition, clinching her second berth to the NCAA Championships. 

Knight raced twice in the 400 meter hurdles to qualify with a season-best time of 57.05. Knight concluded the meet sixth overall, advancing to her third national meet.

To close out the preliminary round, McKee jumped 13.56 meters in the triple jump to qualify for her second consecutive national championship. Her fourth-place finish makes her the first female Cavalier triple jumper to attend the national meet in back-to-back years since Dana Boone.  

"All three [Guy, Knight and McKee] are experienced when it comes to the championships,” Feltzer said. “All have been competing very confidently and peaking at the right time. They will have the opportunity to do something special."

Due to their strong performances in the NCAA East Preliminary Round, nine Cavaliers will next compete in the NCAA Championships. The final competition of the season will be held in Austin, Texas, from June 5 to June 8.