May 27, 2009

Grace to Compete at NCAA Regional Championships

May 27, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - This weekend North Carolina A&T State University will host the NCAA East Regional Track and Field Championship on Irwin Belk Track. Friday will be a day of preliminary heats, and those who qualify will continue to the finals on Saturday. Sophomore Kate Grace (Los Angeles, Calif.) will be competing in the 800-meter run, hoping to go to Nationals yet again.

The top five finishers from each of the four regions (East, Mid East, West, and Midwest) will automatically continue to the NCAA Nationals on June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Ark. Last year Grace was selected as an at-large bid for Nationals; seven to 10 runners were given at-large bids after those Regional competitors who finished between sixth and 12th place were placed into a pool, and those who had performed the best throughout the season were chosen. Grace had finished in sixth place at the Regionals in Tallahassee, Fla. and had a season best of 2:06.12, which she ran in the preliminary heat at Regionals (her personal best going into the event was 2:06.32).

Grace has had a stellar record in the 800-meter run. After competing at Nationals last June, and finishing 24th in 2:09.47, she had an amazing indoor season this past winter. Grace first set the school record at the Heptagonal Championships (2:07.83), which she won, and then went on to break her own record at the ECAC Championships (2:06.41). Grace then smashed that record at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March, when she ran 2:04.72 in the preliminary heat. She earned All-American honors for her eighth-place finish in the finals, with a time of 2:07.77.

In the outdoor season, Grace has continued to perform at high levels of competition. She was named first-team All-Ivy for her first-place finish at the Heptagonal Championships in 2:09.01 on May 10, and then went on the next weekend to earn All-East honors for her first place finish at ECAC Championships at Princeton. Grace finished in 2:08.44 in the finals, but ran faster in the preliminary heat, in which she finished second in 2:06.75, her fastest time of the season.

Grace has a history of running slower on the second day of hard competition, though she has been working to improve on this. Last year at Regionals she ran 1.36 seconds slower in the finals than she did in the preliminary round; this year at indoor ECACs she ran 2.68 seconds slower in the finals, and at outdoor ECACs she finished 1.69 seconds slower on the second day of competition. Grace has been training hard, though, and she also has a history of still running significantly faster on both days of Championship competition against other nationally-ranked athletes than earlier in the season.

Grace will run in a preliminary heat of the 800-meter run at 7:20 p.m. on Friday. Penn junior Anna Aagenes, whom Grace has just barely beat throughout the season, will run in the same heat. If Grace advances to the finals, she will run at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday.

A complete schedule of events and live results can be found here. Results will also be posted on YaleBulldogs.com at the end of the day.

Report by Kyle Eichner '12, Yale Sports Publicity