Cyclone women preparing for NCAA regionals

Zach Gourley

The Cyclone track and field program is sending 19 athletes in 12 different events to the NCAA West Regional in Eugene, Ore., which will take place from May 26 to May 28.

Expectations at regionals have been high for the women’s distance runners since the tandem of Betsy Saina and Dani Stack finished first and second, respectively, in the 5,000-meter race at the Big 12 Championships.

“We have to get in the top 12 to make it to nationals, so that’s where we want to be,” Stack said. “We’re going to go out there, compete hard and run together again, and work hard to make sure we both get in.”

The 10,000-meter race, which Stack, Saina and fellow Cyclone Semehar Tesfaye will run together this week in Eugene, did not work out the way the duo had hoped at the Big 12 Championships.

The pair of Cyclones took an early lead and held it for most of the race, but when the rest of the field made a move, they were unable to respond. Stack held on to finish second while Saina fell back, finishing fourth.

Stack said there were lessons to be learned from the way the pair finished.

“We had a talk with Coach Ihmels and we asked him what he wanted us to do, and he said not to lead it because we led the 10,000,” Stack said. “We decided that we were just going to hammer it halfway through and try to drop the field, and that’s what we did. We talked about it during the race. Betsy was like, ‘All right, are you ready to go?’ and I said ‘Yep, let’s go.’ Once we started hammering it, we got the results we wanted to see.”

The West Regional, which is the 1st round of the NCAA Track and Field Div. I Championships, will be held at the legendary Hayward Field on the University of Oregon’s campus.

Hayward Field has been home to the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials four different times and will once again host the event in 2012 for the London Olympics.

“I’ve actually never been to regionals before, so this is my first time,” Stack said. “I’m really excited, just because it’s at Hayward Field and it’s kind of a runner’s dream to run there.”

The student-athletes at the West Regional will be competing to qualify for the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.