FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas--Survive and get to Eugene.
That's the mantra that the athletes from all five Washington schools are taking for the three-day competition at John McDonnell Track on the campus of the University of Arkansas known as the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds.
This meet, along with the corresponding East preliminary meet in Jacksonville, Florida hosted by the University of North Florida, mark the start of the NCAA championships.
48 individuals in each event, along with 24 relay teams face off against each other, with the best 12 advancing to the national finals in Eugene in a fortnight.
The top seeds in each of the two regions will naturally try to advance to Eugene with as little effort as possible. For those spectators trying to follow the meet, this is often one of the most frustrating parts of the regional championship experience, making it at best, difficult to follow.
In the field events, only one round is contested, with throwers and horizontal jumpers each getting three preliminary attempts to cut the field to 16, with the top 16 getting three more attempts to get to the 12. The vertical jumps will keep going up in height until 12 athletes remain.
The individual races from 100 to 1500 meters consist of a first round and a quarterfinal to get to twelve, while the relays, steeple, 5000 & 10000 will have only one round to decide who goes to Eugene.
Washington will bring 32 athletes to Fayetteville, led by Pac-12 champs Diamara Planell Cruz (above/photo by Paul Merca), Jax Thoirs, Derrick Daigre, and Aaron Nelson. Washington State takes 29 led by Pac-12 champs Charlotte Muschamp and CJ Allen.
Eastern Washington has 11 athletes qualified, led by Big Sky champs Zack Nielsen, Courtney Bray, Emma Murrillo, and Catie Arrigoni, while Gonzaga has two in 5000 meter runner Willie Milam and steeplechaser Nick Roche. Seattle University will be represented once again by WAC javelin champ Dylan Burnett.
Top 10 seeded men with Washington ties competing in Fayetteville include Rainier Beach HS grad Michael Berry of Oregon in the 400; the Huskies' Derrick Daigre in the 800; Washington's Aaron Nelson in the steeple; Jax Thoirs of UW in the pole vault; Jordan Arakawa of Eastern Washington in the hammer; and Washington's Quinn Hale and Carson Fuller in the javelin.
On the women's side, Megan Goethals and Lindsay Flanagan of Washington (10000), Gianna Woodruff of UW (400H), Charlotte Muschamp of WSU (HJ), and Diamara Planell Cruz of the Huskies (PV) are seeded in the top ten going into the start of the meet.
Here are the preview releases for the five Washington schools competing (click on the name of the school):