September 22, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

Lopers Compete At NCAA Nationals

Kearney, Neb. – Redshirt junior Wes Ferguson won heat one of the 800-meter prelims, redshirt junior Ben Arens placed seventh in the steeplechase and the 4×4 relay team qualified for the finals at the 2023 NCAA Division II Championships Friday in Pueblo, Colo.

A lightning delay pushed things back by a half-hour today. Action resumes Saturday at noon Central and will wrap up, weather permitting, around 10:30 p.m. Central. A free live video link is available for Saturday. 

Ferguson (Fremont) ran a 1:49.75 to win the first of three heats and rank third overall. Butare Rungenerwa of West Texas A&M (1:49.72) had the top prelim time. Of note, college 800 leader and the 2023 D2 indoor champ, Oussama El Bouchayby of Angelo State, isn’t taken part in the championships as he recently announced a transfer to the University of Alabama. He had a 1:45.31 earlier this spring. The 800 finals are scheduled for 8:05 p.m. Central Saturday night with Ferguson having won the indoor and outdoor national titles last year and being the indoor runner up to El Bochayby at this year’s indoor meet.

​Arens (Ainsworth), now a two-time All-American in the steeple, led the 12-man field at the 600 and 1,000-meter marks. He was still second halfway through with his 9:20.69 good for seventh. Northwest Missouri State’s Reece Smith easily defended his national title (9:07.03).

Next, Ferguson ran anchor for the 4×4 relay team that managed a 3:10.44 to finish fourth in the opening heat and eighth overall. Ravenna junior Jack Drahota, Wallace senior Micah Swedberg and St. Paul freshman Conner Wells made up the first three legs. The effort is just off this group’s school-record (3:0.19) set on May 13.

The top nine teams, in a field of 13 qualifiers, advance to the finals Saturday night at 10:05 p.m. Central. West Texas A&M (3:07.28) and Lincoln (3:08.11) ranked 1-2 in prelims with Ferguson’s late kick helping the Lopers secure one of the final spots. All-American status in relays is first-team (one through eight) and second-team (ninth). UNK’s only other D2 AA relay team was last year’s DMR squad that was eighth at the indoor meet.  

Finally, Stamford freshman Brianna Russell placed 15th in the high jump (5-5) and Kearney redshirt freshman Lily Novacek was 16th in the discus (141-10). Russell cleared both 5-3 and 5-5 on her second attempt before bowing out at 5-6. Cheyenne Williamson of Saginaw Valley (Mich.) State went 5-9.75 to win the national title with the last All-American spot (12th place) going to Pitt State’s Allary Liberatore (5-6).  

Novacek, who was 13th in the hammer on Thursday, hit 141-10 on her third and final attempt. She threw 129-1 and 136-10, respectively, on her first two throws. Hannah Woelfing of Millersville (Pa.) came in first thanks to a toss of 167-0 with Brooklyn House of Texas-Tyler (152-0) finishing 12th.

Source: Regional Sports