EUGENE, Ore. – Cierra Simmons’ school-record performance in the semifinals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase propelled her to the finals and Brenn Flint earned her second All-American honor on Thursday at the NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships at historic Hayward Field.
Simmons, a junior from Soda Springs, Idaho, qualified for the finals of the steeplechase by placing fourth overall and second in her heat with a time of 9:50.35 in Thursday’s semifinals.
“It is unreal,” Simmons said of advancing to the finals. “We had too much time this week, and I took a lot of time to think about it and I got caught up thinking, ‘This was the goal. This is what I’m doing, and we just fulfilled it.’ But then once we were here, and I was looking around and running Pre’s Trail (a popular trail in Eugene named after Steve Prefontaine), it became a lot more of, ‘Holy goodness gracious, this is exactly what we wanted to do,’ and all the texts that were pouring in really made me realize this is the goal. This is the dream.”
Furthermore, the Mountain West champion in the steeplechase broke her own school record in the event by more than six seconds.
“Cierra just ran a fantastic race,” said USU assistant distance coach Sarah Griggs. “She executed it perfectly, and just really trusted and believed in herself. It was her goal to go to the final, and she really believed that she could do it, and she did. She really built off of last year’s disappointment of not making it to Eugene, and she’s just had a fire to come here and compete really well – not just make it here, but really compete and do something big. I’m proud of her.”
All 12 student-athletes who qualified for the finals did so by running the race in less than 10 minutes, marking the first time in meet history that has ever happened.
Three of the top four placers in the event are from Mountain West institutions. Boise State’s Allie Ostrander finished first (9:45.96) and New Mexico’s Charlotte Prouse took third (9:49.78). Utah’s Grayson Murphy captured second place (9:48.57).
The finals of the steeplechase will be held on Saturday at 4:54 p.m.
Flint, a junior from Syracuse, Utah, earned honorable mention All-American accolades by placing 23rd in the finals of the shot put with a mark of 13.72 meters (45-0.25). Trying to battle through a high ankle sprain suffered while competing at the NCAA West Preliminary Championships proved too daunting of a task for Flint.
“It was a tough competition, and I’m glad I could be here to compete with all these girls,” Flint said. “Next year, we’re going to come back so much stronger.”
First-year USU head coach Matt Ingebritsen agreed with Flint.
“This year, qualifying for nationals came at a big price,” said Ingebritsen, who coaches the throwers. “Brenn got hurt on her second throw of the competition, and we haven’t really been able to throw for two weeks, and in shot put, which is such a timing event, when you don’t actually get to throw with the implement, it makes it really hard to come back and try to compete at a high level.
“I knew she was going to be ready to throw far, but I knew it was going to be a big fight. I think her first throw was a little bit painful, and we just weren’t able to put it together, but overall she had an amazing season and accomplished just about everything we set out to do this year. We’re going to be back again next year, and we will be back ready to be a part of this thing and be on that podium for sure. Overall, it was a great season, so I’m not disappointed in that.”
On the men’s side, Dillon Maggard will compete in the finals of the 5,000 meters on Friday at 8:25 p.m. (MT). The senior from Kirkland, Wash., garnered first-team All-American honors on Wednesday when he placed third in the finals of the 10,000 meters with a school-record time of 28:38.36.
“Overall, we have had a great showing,” Ingebritsen said. “We would’ve liked for things to go a little better in the shot put, but overall, what a great national championship so far, and it’s not ever over yet. We’ve still got Dillon and Cierra, and I think we’re all going to go home smiling.”
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HISTORIC HAYWARD FIELD
JUNE 7, 2018
USU WOMEN RESULTS:
3,000-Meter Steeplechase (Semifinals) – 4. Cierra Simmons, 9:50.35Q.
Shot Put (Finals) – 23. Brenn Flint, 13.72m (45-0.25).
COMPETITION SCHEDULE FOR UTAH STATE ATHLETES (ALL TIMES MT)
Friday, June 8
8:25 p.m. – Men’s 5,000 Meters – Finals (Dillon Maggard)
Saturday, June 9
4:54 p.m. – Women’s 3,000-Meter Steeplechase – Finals (Cierra Simmons)