Azaria Kirwa qualified for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the men's 5K on Saturday. (Photo courtesy Cheryl Treworgy/Pretty Sporty)
Liberty saved its best for last at the 2017 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet, which wrapped up Saturday at the University of Kentucky Outdoor Track & Field Complex. Sophomore Azaria Kirwa, the final Flame to compete at the three-day meet, punched his ticket to the 2017 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the men's 5K.
Just 48 hours before Saturday night's race, Kirwa had finished an agonizing 13th in the men's 10K, just one spot away from qualifying for the NCAA final in Eugene, Ore. The native of Eldoret, Kenya made the most of his second opportunity, securing the fifth and final automatic qualifying berth to Eugene from his heat.
Kirwa clocked 62.32 seconds for his final lap, closing out the second fastest time of his career (14:07.38) and his first-ever NCAA national appearance. He becomes the first Flame to qualify for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the men's 5K since Sam Chelanga captured the event's national title in 2011.
About nine hours earlier, junior Darrel Jones triple jumped 50-4.75 into a headwind. As a result, the Empire State native ended up a career-best 21st in the final standings.
Coming off of his school-record 13.93 performance in Friday's first round, redshirt freshman Jovaine Atkinson raced in the men's 110 hurdles quarterfinals Saturday evening. His time of 14.21 was the 23rd fastest among the three quarterfinal heats.
Senior Zach Davis closed out his career with a 28th-place finish in his third NCAA Preliminary Round high jump competition. Shortly after Davis dislodged the crossbar on his first attempt at the opening height (6-6.75), the meet was delayed for 3 hours, 52 minutes due to a series of thunderstorms. Davis came back after the lengthy delay to make it over both 6-6.75 and 6-8.75 successfully.
Redshirt senior Janae Jones also finished her collegiate career on Saturday. Her triple jump of 40-3.5 placed 36th in the event.
Up Next Kirwa will now prepare to race in the men's 5K final at the 2017 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. The race is scheduled for 10:25 p.m. Eastern on June 9 and will be televised live on ESPN.