Hammons, Decker to represent U at NCAAs

After posting qualifying marks during the indoor track season, seniors Nellie Hammons and Katie Decker will represent the U this weekend at the NCAA Indoor National Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.

Hammons will be making her second trip to nationals-she qualified for last summer’s outdoor NCAA Nationals-while Decker will be making her first trip.

Hammons, one of the most dominant runners in the history of the U, set another school record last weekend in the 800-meter run. At the Notre Dame Last Chance qualifying meet, Hammons shaved a full two seconds off of her previous time of 2 minutes, 8 seconds to finish with the 12th-best provisional qualifying time in the country.

“I think I’m peaking at the perfect time,” Hammons said after posting her impressive time of 2 minutes, 6.29 seconds.

“It’s evident in my times because they get faster and faster each race. All I ask of myself is to run my best, and I don’t ask any more. That takes the pressure off of trying to finish in a certain place.”

Hammons, who won every event she entered but one this year, was quick to attribute her recent success at the qualifying meet to her ability to stay with the pack, letting the pacesetter do most of the work at first. In many situations this year, Hammons has been the dominant runner, meaning there is rarely someone to pace her. Hammons explained that with higher-caliber competition, similar to what she will see at nationals, she will be able to stay with the pack

“I cut 2 1/2 seconds from my time last weekend mostly because the pacesetter helped me find my race,” she said. “Before last weekend, I had been running ahead of the pack. I’m looking forward to running in a pack again this weekend because these are the best athletes in the country to run with.”

The other Ute who qualified for nationals is the Utes’ top high jumper, Katie Decker, who earned a spot at nationals earlier in the year with a provisional height of 5 feet, 11.25 inches.

Decker has never attended nationals before, but coming off the best season of her collegiate career, she is as ready as she will ever be.

“This will be the toughest competition Katie has faced,” said U head track coach Lisa Archer. “But with that said, this is the best season she has posted. She has waited a long time to get to the NCAA Championships and is ready to compete.”

Decker views her qualifying for nationals as the culmination of her career as a collegiate athlete. Decker won almost every competition she entered on a regional level this year, and regardless of how she performs at nationals, her year has been an undeniable success.

“I’m really excited to compete this weekend,” Decker said. “It’s even more special because it’s my senior season and I’ve spent a lot of time working up to this.”

“My goal is to set a new personal record,” she continued, “and to place high enough to earn All America honors.”

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