Shapard and Grimm qualify for NCAA Championships

By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

With the NCAA West Regionals in Eugene, Ore., now over and done with for Utah’s track and field team, two members find themselves in the field for the NCAA Championships, held in Fayetteville, Ark.

Senior Chelsea Shapard qualified in the 400-meter hurdles event, after finishing fourth in the finals with a time of 58.37 seconds. Joining her on her trip to the south will be hammer thrower Sarah Grimm. The junior earned an at-large bid to the championships because of her season-best mark that ranked her 15th in the nation.

Hoping to join Grimm in the hammer throw at the championships will be senior Josefin Berg. She will find out Tuesday if her season-best mark will also be good enough to qualify.

“We didn’t end up where we thought we were going to get to in terms of number of qualifiers,” said coach Kyle Kepler. “But it was kind of a rough, weird road to get here. We had some really strange things happen to us along the way, some good, some bad, but we know we ultimately have at least two qualifiers and potentially a third.”

For Shapard, this will be her third trip in a row to the NCAA Championships. She had much success last year, advancing as far as the NCAA semifinals and ultimately finishing in 15th place.

“I’m sure Chelsea (Shapard) will be named to the all-regional team this year,” Kepler said. “She’s just done a very good job and she’s running really consistent right now.”

Apart from having competitors in the 400-meter hurdles and the hammer throw, the Utes had athletes compete in the 1,500-meter run, pole vault, high jump and the 4X400-meter relay.

Senior Chelsea DiGrazia competed in the 1,500-meter run preliminary during the first session, and was .06 seconds off the qualifying time for the finals. Digrazia placed 8th in her heat with a time of 4:27.86.

Also turning in a gutsy performance on day one of the regionals was Klaudia Rokossa in the pole vault. After breaking her pole on her first vault, Rokossa still continued on the event, and ended up placing 18th after clearing 12 feet, 6 inches after three attempts.

“Digrazia ran a great race,” Kepler said. “She ended up missing the final by .06 seconds. It was that close, just mere inches. And Klaudia (Rokossa) competed great. Her very first run down the runway she broke the pole. Most kids would have been scared to death after something like that, but she kept going and showed a lot of courage.”

Langley Iverson, the freshman from Reno, Nev., represented the Utes in the high jump on day two of the West Regionals. Despite the upgrade in competition, and having to start on a higher opening height than she has ever faced, Iverson turned in a great performance, finishing tied for 14th with a jump of 5’7″.

The Utes’ last event of the regionals was in the 4X400-meter relay. After Shapard’s championship qualifying run in the 400-meter hurdles, she joined teammates Chelsey Kaplar, Whitney Wellington and Ashley Patterson to compete in the race. The foursome came in eighth with a time of 3:45.20.

The NCAA Championships will take place June 10 through June 13. Shapard, Grimm and potentially Berg now find themselves competing against the best college track and field athletes in the country.

“Each field is going to have the best 28 competitors in the country,” Kepler said. “This is the best of the best. In our week back we will try to refine some things and get our athletes ready, because it’s all going to be really close competition out there.”

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