JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Bulldogs wrapped up a very successful first day at the NCAA East Preliminary Championship meet with senior Shannon McDonnell and junior Frances Schmiede both advancing to the next round of their respective events. This prestigious meet hosted by the University of North Florida brings together the 48 best athletes from all across the eastern half of the country, all contending for a bid to the NCAA National Championship in Eugene, Ore. The pair of Bulldogs made it to the quarterfinal race, the last hurdle before qualifying for a trip to Oregon.
Schmiede performed very well in the first round of the 1,500-meter run, placing third with a time of 4:19.01 in a very tough heat that included the fastest woman in the country. Her place in the heat earned Schmiede an automatic bid for the quarterfinal and her time ranks her seventh amongst a field of 48 runners. With just one race between her and the National Championship, the breakout middle-distance runner has the best chance of making the trip to Eugene, Ore. She must place within the top 5 in her heat of 12 on Saturday to do so. If she fails to do so, she can still qualify by have one of the next two best times. Though ranking goes out the window at meets this competitive, it is worth noting that Schmiede has the third-fastest personal best amongst her competitors.
Meanwhile, junior Emily Waligurski put up a good race as well in the 1,500-meter run, but unfortunately missed advancing by just a few seconds. She ran in the same heat as Schmiede, which was by far the toughest of the evening with eight of the 12 competitors advancing. Though Waligurski placed 10th in this heat, her time of 4:26.36 ranks her a commendable 28th out of 48. She might not have been able to match her season best this evening. However, Waligurski caps off what has been a very productive junior campaign, despite being sidelined for the winter. She made crucial gains in the 800- and 1,500-meter runs that will help immensely in her final year on the team.
McDonnell advanced in the 800-meter run by snatching the last spot with a new season best of 2:07.01. The senior was ecstatic about her performance, but admitted, "There are definitely elements of the race today that can be improved upon." McDonnell added, "I'm excited to have another opportunity tomorrow to do that. I'm looking forward to really putting myself out there in what may be the last race of my collegiate career."
Indeed, she greatly improved in her performance compared to last time around when she placed 45th. Though originally seeded 31st, McDonnell has definitely outdone herself, only a few 10ths of a second off her all-time personal best of 2:06.36.
Though she is quick to downplay her chances of qualifying for the next round, only a second stands between McDonnell and the top 12. She will be in the first of three heats of the 800-meter quarterfinal tomorrow evening. In order to punch her ticket to Eugene, Ore., McDonnell must either place in the top three or have one of the three fastest times after the automatically qualified. It might seem like an outside chance for the senior to qualify but one must bear in mind that at such high-caliber meets, seeding essentially collapses.
The gun will go off for the 800-meter run on Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. The 1,500-meter run quarterfinal will take place Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Check out the live results above to see how these two athletes fare.
Recap by Ariel A. Sánchez '19 Yale Sports Publicity