Records rarely fall in the preliminaries of championship track and field meets.
Keith Osowski and Vanessa Aniteye proved the exception – and exceptional – Thursday.
Kodiak’s Osowski, a distance man for Black Hills State University (S.D.), broke his own school record at the NCAA Division II nationals in Allendale, Mich., finishing second overall in the heats of the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Eagle River’s Aniteye, the former UAA long sprinter, broke her own Seattle Pacific school record when she finished fourth overall in the prelims of the 400 meters.
Osowski (Kodiak High) clocked 8 minutes, 49.62 seconds to improve his personal best and school record by .40 seconds and advance to Saturday’s final.
Aniteye (Chugiak High) clocked 54.18 seconds to slash .42 off her school record. She also improved her PR by .01 – she ran 54.19 to win the Great Northwest Athletic Conference title for UAA in 2019. She also sits No. 2 on UAA’s all-time list, behind Mary Pearce’s (Dimond High) 53.56 at the NCAAs in 2007.
Runners, particularly those who are good enough to be fairly assured of qualifying for the next round, usually hold back a little in prelims – their best effort isn’t required. But Osowski and Aniteye summoned their best to seize high finishes and presumably bolster their confidence heading into the finals.
Aniteye also ran a leg Thursday on Seattle Pacific’s 4×100-meter relay team, which finished 10th in 46.30 seconds. That came up one spot shy of qualifying for the finals, but still merited the quartet Second-Team All-American status.
The performances by Osowski and Aniteye headlined a group of six Alaskans/Alaska-based athletes competing at national championships Thursday.
UAA’s Elena Cano endured the busiest day of the bunch – she competed in the first four events of the seven-event heptathlon and ran a heat of the 400-meter hurdles.
Cano sits 10th of 16 women in the heptathlon with 3,013 points heading into Friday’s final three events. She opened the meet by blasting the 100 hurdles in 14.10 to improve her Seawolves school record by .05. Those 3,013 points leave her 48 points shy of her pace through four events when she totaled 4,996 points earlier this season to rank No. 2 all-time at UAA behind former All-American Karolin Anders (5,375 points).
Cano clocked 1:01.97 in the 400 hurdles to finish 16th of 20 runners. She did not qualify for the finals.
UAA distance man Cole Nash finished 13th in the 10,000 meters in 29:50.84, coming just 1.18 seconds short of earning Second-Team All-American honors. He’ll get another crack at it Saturday in the 5,000 meters.
Ruby Lindquist of Moose Pass (Seward High), Oswoski’s teammate at Black Hills State, finished 15th of 20 runners in the women’s steeplechase, clocking 10:42.02, but not advancing.
At the Division I West Preliminaries in Fayetteville, Ark., Gakona’s Briahna Gerlach of Abilene Christian University finished 27th out of 47 starters in the 10,000 meters, clocking 34:40.88. Gerlach recently ran the 10K in 34:18.63 at the WAC Championships to rank No. 4 all-time among Alaskans at 6.2 miles on the oval.
A few other Alaskans will begin competition Friday and Saturday. Leroy Elliott Jr. (West High) of Adams State (Colo.) and UAA’s Joshua Wagner will compete in the D-II 110-meter hurdles Friday, and Chugiak’s Emma Nelson (Chugiak High) of Oregon State will compete in the Division I high jump Saturday in Fayetteville.