Western Kentucky junior Annastacia Forrester punched her team’s first ticket to the NCAA Championships after recording a personal-best mark to finish fourth in the women’s long jump Thursday at the NCAA East Preliminaries in Jacksonville, Fla.
Forrester was one of four Hilltoppers to advance in their events as Kymari Gates, Juannae Lewis and Maor Seged each earned spots in their respective quarterfinals on the track.
“We had a good opening day of competition,” WKU coach Erik Jenkins said in a news release. “The NCAA East Preliminary is an extremely tough place to advance. We have some of the NCAA’s highest-ranked athletes and teams in this region of the country. Everyone who advanced to the quarterfinals earned their spot and will have to fight to move on to Austin.”
Forrester’s long jump clear of 20 feet, 3.75 inches held as the event’s top mark through the first three flights before three competitors out of the final flight pushed the Lady Topper down to fourth. Forrester was the lone competitor in the field to produce a personal best en route to her first trip to the NCAA Championships. She’s the first Lady Topper since Sharika Smith in 2013 to represent WKU at the NCAAs in the long jump.
Seged was the first Hilltopper to earn a spot in the quarterfinals after taking second in his heat of the 400-meter hurdles. The senior notched a time of 51.77 seconds, which ranked 27th across the 48-person field. Seged will run at 6:15 p.m. CDT on Friday and will look to earn a top-three finish in his heat or one of the three next best marks to punch his ticket to Nationals.
WKU had athletes advance to the quarterfinals in both the men’s and women’s 400 meters. Lewis clocked a 53.06 to take second in the first heat of the women’s event. Her season-best mark ranks 16th across the field. Gates kept things going on the men’s side, clocking a 46.62 to win the third heat and earn a spot in Friday’s race. Lewis will compete in the 400-meter quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, while Gates will follow at 4:45 p.m. from the University of North Florida.
Oliver Alexandre also ran in the third heat of the men’s 400 meter and turned in a 47.71.
Forrester and Katie Isenbarger both represented WKU in the high jump. Forrester tied for 21st with a clear of 5-7, while Isenbarger tied for 44th with a 5-5 mark.
WKU’s Getter Lemberg will compete on Friday as the women’s pole vault kicks off at 4 p.m. Martin Owusu-Antwi will also be in action, taking the track for the men’s 200 meters at 6:55 p.m.