Azaria Kirwa finished just one place shy of qualifying to the 2017 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships Thursday evening. (Photo courtesy Cheryl Treworgy/Pretty Sporty)
Liberty sophomore Azaria Kirwa closed out the opening day of the 2017 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet with a 13th-place finish in the men's 10K. He was one of four Flames to finish inside the top 20 but outside the 12 Eugene qualifying positions on a cool, damp Thursday at the University of Kentucky Outdoor Track & Field Complex.
The Flames' other top 20 performers on Thursday included sophomore Denzel Pratt (16th place, men's javelin), junior Brenna Smith (17th place, women's javelin) and redshirt freshman Samuel Arter (19th place, men's javelin).
Kirwa ran well in his NCAA Preliminary Round debut, spending a good portion of the night's final race inside the top five. However, he ended up 13th among the 48-runner men's 10K field with a time of 30:08.42. That left Kirwa one spot and 3.38 seconds behind Colin Bennie of Syracuse, the event's final qualifier to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Kirwa will have one more chance to qualify for Eugene when he competes in the men's 5K, Saturday at 8:45 p.m.
Pratt paced Liberty's trio of competitors in a rain-logged men's javelin competition with his 205-11 heave for 16th place. The Bahamas native recorded his second straight top 20 finish at this meet, following a 17th-place showing at the 2016 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet.
The seventh track meet of Arter's life resulted in a 19th-place finish and a mark of 205-4. The baseball player turned javelin thrower ended up as the third-best freshman in the event. Classmate Alexander Hoffsmith threw 179-3 for 43rd place, while battling some of the afternoon's heaviest rain showers during his flight.
Smith unleashed the second longest javelin throw of her career, measuring 150-1. That stood up for 17th place in the New Jersey native's NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round debut.
Junior Dasiana Larson's top throw in the women's hammer measured 182-6. As a result, she finished 24th for a marked improvement over her 46th-place showing at this meet a year ago.
Sophomore Michael Todd continued the day's theme of near misses in the first round of the men's 800. He crossed the finish line in 1:50.24, the second fastest time of his life and the 25th fastest time of the day. However, he missed qualifying for Friday's quarterfinal round by just 0.13 seconds.
Ryan Davis closed out his career by competing in the men's 400 hurdles at this meet for the third consecutive season. His first round time of 54.05 placed 40th in the field.
Up Next The NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet will resume Friday at 2 p.m. with the women's discus. Liberty's first events of the day will be the women's high jump (Kylie Polsgrove and Erin Zappia) and men's pole vault (Carson Waters), both scheduled to begin at 4:30.