SALT LAKE CITY - The Univeristy of Utah track and field team is sending two athletes to compete at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 11-14. Chelsea Shapard earned an automatic bid in the 400m hurdles while Josefin Berg won an at-large bid in the hammer throw.
Shapard, the MWC Champion in the 400m hurdles, punched her ticket to the championships with a top-five finish at the NCAA West Regional meet last week. After winning her first-round heat (59.61), Shapard took third (59.12) in the regional final. The Park City, Utah native won all-region honors for her effort at last week's meet.
"This is Chelsea's second time qualifying for the NCAA meet," stated head coach Kyle Kepler. "This time around, our goal is to make it to the second round. If you qualify for the second round, it's so competitive that everyone will have a chance to make it to the final 16.
"These next few days leading up to the meet, we'll refine a few things for Chelsea. It will help her be successful regardless of heat or lane assignment."
Berg won an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. A top-12 finish (10th, 180-11) in the hammer throw at the West Regional meet put her in the at-large pool. Then, the NCAA ranked her best throw for the season which allowed her to make the cut.
"Josefin didn't have the best regional, and she knows that," said Kepler. "She needs to go the meet, and make the best of her three throws to make it to the finals. This is another competitive field as everyone in this event has solid credentials. But, Josefin has a good chance to make the finals if she steps up and competes to her potential."
While Utah had two other athletes make the at-large pool, they did not make the cut. Both Alyssa Abbott (ninth, 4:26.43) and Chelsea DiGrazia (11th, 4:30.14) had top-12 finishes in the 1,500m last week. But they did not make the cut for the NCAA Championships. Abbott's best time this season ranked 33rd in the nation while DiGrazia's top effort was 38th. Abbott was one place shy of being named all-region.
"While I would've liked to have seen Alyssa and Chelsea (DiGrazia) make it to the NCAA meet, I couldn't be more proud of them," said Kepler. "Last year, they weren't even considered for the NCAA Championships. Now, they rank in the top 40 in the nation. They have put in a lot of effort this year and have been rewarded for it."