May 19 - BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College sophomore Matt Cruse (Naples, Fla./Barron Collier) found out Monday that he has qualified for the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, which will run May 22-24 at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
Although this will be Cruse’s second appearance at the outdoor meet and third NCAA Championships invitation, this trip will be different. He will be competing in two events, as the Bison sophomore has earned a spot in both the 110 and 400 hurdles.
The berth in the 400 hurdles was far from a certainty, but Cruse slipped in as the 16th seed in a field of 16 runners. He recorded his fastest time of 53.85 seconds at the Allegheny Invitational May 9th, which came after he earned Second Team All-PAC in the event at the conference championship meet April 26.
The 400 hurdles preliminaries will be Thursday (May 22) at 5:20 p.m. with Cruse in the third of three heats. He’ll be in the fourth lane competing against Alex Greenhouse from Emory (Ga.) University (52.50), Kyle Hansen from California Lutheran (53.41), Keith Martineau from Wisconsin-Whitewater (53.45), P.J. Theisen from the University of St. Thomas (52.63) and Brian Christ from Wisconsin Eau-Claire (53.84).
The top seed in the 400 hurdles is junior Ted McMillan of Augustana (Ill.) College, who will be running in the first heat after posting a time of 51.21 seconds during the season. McMillan is also the defending national champion in the event, as he took first at last year’s national meet with a winning time of 51.50. Only one other All-American is back from last year, as Carleton’s Tom Ballinger, who placed sixth in last year’s final, is seeded fifth entering this week’s competition.
The winners of the three heats, plus the next six fastest times will advance to the final, which will be Saturday at 3:25 p.m.
There was far less concern that Cruse would make his second consecutive NCAA appearance in the 110 hurdles, as he is ranked seventh out of 16 competitors. As a freshman in 2007, he broke the school record at the time by crossing in 14.71 seconds to finish 11th overall in the preliminaries, but fell just short of advancing to the finals.
This year, Cruse earned Second Team All-PAC in the 110s on April 26. His best time of the season came last Friday at the ECAC Championships, as he finished third in a highly competitive field with a time of 14.51 seconds. The only runners to finish ahead of Cruse were Moravian’s Beresford Brown, who is ranked first in the nation with a time of 14.27, and Nathanial Tussey, also from Moravian, who is ranked fourth (14.45).
Preliminaries for the 110 hurdles are scheduled for Friday (May 23) at 5 p.m. with Cruse slated to be in the first of three heats. Alongside the Bison hurdler will be Edgar Townsend of Greenville (14.50), William Brown of Montclair State (14.58), Beresford Brown from Moravian (14.27) and Ackiel Facey of Fisk (14.61). Cruse won’t be the only PAC runner in the 110 hurdles at NCAAs, as Thiel’s Dorran Coley, who has the second fastest time in the nation this year (14.41), is in the second heat.
Just like the 400 hurdles, the three heat winners, plus the next six fastest times will advance to Saturday’s final at 1:55 p.m. Last year’s champion, Jonathan Garcia from UMass-Dartmouth, completed his outdoor eligibility last spring, but three other All-Americans are back from last year’s final, including Thiel’s Coley, who was second to Garcia a year ago, Wisconsin-Platteville’s Ben Zizis, who was third in 2007 and is seeded eighth right behind Cruse this year, and Greenville’s Jarod Renford, who took eighth last season and has the third-fastest time in the nation in 2008.
To earn All-American honors, Cruse must place in the top eight in either race. He became the first Bison to earn indoor All-American status earlier this year, as he placed fourth at nationals in the 55 hurdles (7.60). Garcia won the national title in the event, with Brown from Moravian earning third, Coley taking sixth and Bethel (Minn.) University’s Taylor Ferda, who is also competing in the 110s this week in Wisconsin, crossing in seventh.