By ISABELLA CROWLEY •The Observer
LA GRANDE — Eleven individuals athletes and two relay teams from Eastern Oregon University Track and Field are in Gulf Shores, Alabama, for this year’s NAIA National Championships.
Running for the 4x100 team are DJ Wilson, Bryce Peters, TJ Davis and Cody Milmine. Mason Nichols and Allexander Kosel have been listed as alternatives.
Qualifying as individuals from the Mountaineer men’s team are Justin Ash (5,000), Davis (decathlon), Kosel (long jump and triple jump), Judson Mansfield (decathlon), Moses McAninch (javelin), Hunter Nichols (1,500), Darrian Walker (pole vault) and Jonathan Wind (1,500).
Davis enters the outdoor championship as the highest ranked athlete from EOU. He qualified for the decathlon at rank two with 7,101 points. Davis is coming off a hot season as the reigning indoor national champion and repeat champion at the CCC multi-event championship. Mansfield, also participating in the decathlon, enters at rank 14 with 6,154 points.
Walker is the second highest ranked Mountaineer at the championship, ranking fourth for the pole vault. Kosel is the third highest ranking male athlete, coming in at rank nine for the triple jump at 14.8 meters. He also checks in just outside the top 10 for the long jump, qualifying at rank 11 with 7.27 meters. Kosel earned individual conference championships in both the long jump and triple jump.
Participating in javelin is McAninch, who qualified at 22 with a 55.7-meter throw. McAninch earned all-conference honors and finished on the podium with a third-place finish at the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championships.
Ash is running in the 5,000-meter race and ranked as 17 with a time of 14:45.28 seconds — the former Powder Valley standout runner is competing in his first career national championships at the closure of his freshman season. Hunter Nichols and Wind also are participating in the 1,500-meter race, qualifying as 16 at 3:53.04 and 17 at 3:53.11, respectively.
Making up the women’s 4x800 relay team for the Mountaineer women are Lauryn Mitchell, Jaimee Baxter, Katie Jo Gebhardt and Michelle Herbes — the 4x800 relay team is ranked sixth in the country with a time of 9:16.5. The single alternative is Morgan Bayes, who is also headed to the outdoor nationals for the 400-meter hurdles. Eastern last saw an All-American 4x800 relay team at the 2019 NAIA National Championships.
Also making it to nationals as individuals are throwers Maggie Ledbetter and Kenna Woodward. Ledbetter is coming off top-eight finishes in both the shot put and discus in last year’s national championships.
Ledbetter qualified for three throwing events: shot put, hammer throw and discus. She is ranked eighth in shot put with a mark of 13.95 meters. Ledbetter is ranked 24 in hammer throw and 29 in discus. Also participating in hammer throw is Woodward, who is ranked 21 with a distance of 50.36 meters.
Bayes ranked near the top 10 for the 400-meter hurdles, coming in at rank 11 with a time of 1:02.47.
Eastern is fresh off a men’s team title at the Cascade Collegiate Conference Championships, while the women’s team placed fifth overall. The victory was the second consecutive year the men’s team took the conference title. For the second straight year, Kosel was honored as the conference’s men’s field athlete of the year.
The Mountaineers kicked off the NAIA outdoor championship Wednesday, May 25, at the Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex in Alabama. Final results will be available May 27.