Sixth-ranked Spartans qualify five for nationals

It was an unprecedented day for the Trinity Western Spartans track and field day as they set six school records and qualified five athletes for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championships.

And with such an impressive showing, the Spartans women’s track and field team cracked the CIS top 10 rankings for the first time in program history on Tuesday, coming in at sixth spot.

The Spartans were competing at the University of Washington Indoor Preview on Saturday.

Liza Whitehead (60m), Hazel Ross (60m hurdles), Emma Nuttall (high jump), Rebecca Marchant (pole vault) and Calum Innes (60m hurdles) all qualified for nationals, which run in Edmonton March 7 to 9. Last year, the Spartans qualified five athletes for nationals.

Whitehead’s time and Nuttall’s clearance has both athletes currently ranked first amongst all CIS athletes in their respective disciplines. Marchant’s vault and Ross’s time in the 60m hurdles has both them currently ranked second in the national rankings.

“By any measure, today was a great success for the Trinity Western track and field program,” said Spartans coach Laurier Primeau. “Whether you were looking at the number of personal bests achieved, the number of school records broken or the number of people who have already automatically qualified for nationals, the performances by our group were remarkable.

“Our first-year athletes performed exceptionally well. Our veterans performed like veterans and overall it was just a great success for our athletes.”

While five athletes earned automatic national championship times, the Spartans also had a bevy of performances that shattered the Spartans record book.

Getting the ball rolling for Trinity Western in terms of Spartans all-time records was the second-year Ross, who clocked a Spartans record 8.70 in the 60m hurdles to finish third overall. Ross broke her own Spartans record of 8.83, which she ran earlier this year at Scotland’s Emirates Arena.

Not long after, first-year sprinter Nathan George posted a Spartans record 6.95 while finishing fourth in the 60m. He bettered the previous record of 6.99, which was set by Innes last year at Dempsey Indoor. George’s time currently ranks him fifth amongst CIS athletes nationally.

Still on the track, second-year Blair Johnston broke his own Spartans record in the 3000m, posting a time of 8:24.55 and finishing 12th overall. His time puts him sixth overall in the CIS national rankings. Johnston’s previous record, clocked at Dempsey Indoor last year, was 8:29.35.

In the field, Jesse Phillips set the Spartans men’s pole vaulting record with a vault of 4.34m, which placed him second overall. The previous record was held by Alex Love, who vaulted 4.25m last year at the Max Bell Centre. Phillips vault puts him eighth in the national rankings.

Also in the pole vault pit, Marchant set the TWU record with her vault of 3.82m that placed her second overall, after she finished in a tie for first but lost on a count back. Marchant’s vault bettered the previous TWU record of 3.14m, which was set by Esther Kamphuis in 2002-03 at the Universaide Pavilion.

Finally, Ayla Akehurst broke the school record in the triple jump with a leap of 11.45m, which placed her fifth overall. The previous record of 11.04m was set by Rachel Tarvuud in 2000-01 at the Regina Fieldhouse. Akehurst’s result has ranked seventh nationally.

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