Finley's Second-Place Finish Highlights KU's Solid Day One At 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships
June 6, 2012
DES MOINES, Iowa – Kansas’ junior thrower Mason Finley capped the first day of the NCAA Track & Field Championships by taking home a runner-up finish and his third-consecutive All-America honor in the discus Wednesday at Drake Stadium. Heather Bergmann also get the KU women on the board by garnering three points in the javelin with her sixth-place finish.
Finley, who hails from Salida, Colo., had a stressful day in the throwing ring, but ended with a bang and on one of the best throws of his collegiate career. He started the day in the first of two 12-man preliminary flights, needing one of the top nine marks overall to move into finals.
In the preliminary flight Finley was able to hit a mark of 57.93 meters (190-0 ft.) on his second attempt to move up to fifth overall. He was not able to improve on his final throw of the preliminaries, leaving himself on the bubble of missing his final round of throws all together. Finley had to wait through some tense moments as the second flight took their throws, however only four athletes were able to top his second-attempt mark, putting him into finals as the ninth and final qualifier.
In finals Finley put out two mediocre throws, unable to move up from his ninth spot. However on his sixth and final attempt the junior unleashed an enormous throw that drew several cheers from the hundreds of fans surrounding the discus field. The throw measured out to 61.02 meters (200-2 ft.), launching Finley up the leaderboard seven spots to second overall, which is where he would stay. The throw was the second-farthest of Finley’s career.
The national runner-up finish is the second for Finley in his KU career and gives him his third-consecutive All-American distinction in the event. He claimed eight points for the KU men who end day one in a tie for fifth place among the team standings.
Bergmann’s route was somewhat easier than Finley’s as the junior competed in the women’s javelin just adjacent to the discus ring. The Concordia, Kan., native eased her way into finals after hitting a mark of 48.63 meters (159-06 ft.) on her second throw to slide into finals in eighth overall.
Bergmann’s first attempt of finals did not supplant her from the eighth-place spot. It was under unusual circumstances on the following attempt that may have willed her to her best throw of the day. As Bergmann ran down the runway for her fifth attempt, an athlete competing on the adjacent discus field errantly ran across the runway, cutting her off and forcing her to begin her attempt again.
With possibly some extra adrenaline pumping on her second try at her fifth throw Bergmann unleashed a mark of 49.74 meters (163-02 ft.) to climb up two spots on the leaderboard to sixth overall. She would remain in that spot, earning the first three points toward the women’s team total with her sixth-place finish.
The finish earned Bergmann her second first team All-American distinction after finishing seventh in the event a year ago.
It was semifinal day on the track as the Jayhawks had three women and two men vying for spots in the finals. Sophomore Diamond Dixon had the most notable performance as she won her heat of the women’s 400 meters. Dixon rounded the track in 51.51 to claim the fourth-fastest time among the finals qualifiers. She will run in the event finals at 7:02 p.m. Friday night.
Demi Payne put forth a solid effort, competing in her first national championship of the women’s pole vault. The sophomore passed at the first height before needing only two attempts to clear 4.05 meters (13-3.50 ft.). Payne then turned up the drama as she was forced to use all three vaults at the next height of 4.15 meters (13-07.25 ft.), however the New Braunfels, Texas native crept over the bar on her third attempt to move on to the next height. She was unable to clear the next height but collected a 14th-place finish and second team All-American honors.
Rebeka Stowe extended her senior season by a race after qualifying for the finals of the 3,000-meter Steeplechase. The Olathe, Kan. native ran in the first of two preliminary heats Wednesday evening hoping to continue her march to another All-American season. Stowe was in the midst of a five-women pack for the majority of the race, trading the lead with Colorado’s Shalayla Kipp for the first 2,000 meters. Stowe ended the race with a fifth place-finish on her time 10:01.06. She will run with the fifth-fastest qualifying time in the event finals Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Freshman Michael Stigler ran a dramatic semifinal heat of the 400-meter hurdles to close out the night for the Jayhawks. This year’s Big 12 Champion in the event, Stigler got out of the blocks to a less than stellar start. At the 200-meter mark, he nearly stumbled over a hurdle, almost ending his NCAA Championship aspirations. The Canyon, Texas native kept his footing as well as his composure, blazing down the final 200 meters and almost catching the leader. Stigler finished in a close second in his heat, running to his second fastest time of the year at 49.91. He will look to become a first team All-American in the event finals on Friday at 5:35 p.m.
Junior Kyle Clemons had a career day in the semifinals of the 400 meters. Running in lane eight of the first heat Clemons got out to a blistering pace, leading the field at the 300 meter mark. Two runners were able to pass Clemons down the home stretch, however he was able to turn in the fastest time of his career at 45.44 to claim third in the heat. The finish ties Clemons for the second-fastest in school history, however, was not able to propel him into the event finals, placing him 11th overall. Clemons earned second team All-American honors for the second-straight season in the 400 meters.
Paris Daniels was the only KU woman who was unable to move on to finals in her event. The junior finished sixth in her heat of the 100 meters, crossing the finish line 11.53. Daniels’ week is not over, however, as she will run in the semifinals of the 200 meters Thursday.
Day two of the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Champions will kick off Thursday at 1 p.m., with freshman Lindsay Vollmer competing in the first of seven events in the women’s heptathlon, the 100-meter hurdles. Stay logged on to kuathletics.com for complete coverage of the remaining three days of action from Des Moines. Don’t forget to follow on twitter at @KU_Track.