Four to Austin – Stanford University Athletics

Four to Austin - Stanford University Athletics

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – How’s this for a stunning performance? Stanford sophomore John Kroeger entered the NCAA West Prelims tied for the 43rd qualifier in a 48-man long jump field and captured third  on Wednesday to advance to his first NCAA Championships. 

Kroeger jumped a huge lifetime best of 25-7 ½ (7.81 meters) on the second jump of the first flight and waited through three other flights of higher-seeded jumpers before he was assured of making the field for the NCAA meet July 7-10 in Austin, Texas. 

Kroeger was the first of four Stanford men to secure NCAA berths on the first of the four-day meet at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium. Also qualifying were sophomore pole vaulter Garrett Brown and 10,000-meter runners Charles Hicks and Ky Robinson.

In addition, sophomore sprint sensation Udodi Onwuzurike won his heats in both the 100 and 200 to advance to Friday’s round that determines the NCAA qualifiers. 

Max McKhann in the hammer and Cole Sprout in the 10,000 each placed 14th, two spots from Austin. Of the 48 in each individual event, the top 12 placers in each of the nation’s two regionals — the other is in Jacksonville, Florida — advance to the NCAA Championships.

Stanford 32 individuals – 18 women and 14 men – plus three relay teams (women’s 4×100, women’s 4×400, men’s 4×100) competing. Athletes qualified by achieving the top 48 marks from each half of the country. The exceptions are the relays, in which 24 teams advanced.

Before the Pac-12 Championships two weeks ago, Kroeger’s lifetime best was 24-1 ¾ (7.36m). He crushed that at Pac-12’s with a seventh-place jump of 24-10 (7.57m) to get him to Sacramento. But that hardly set him up for success at the West Prelims. He was placed in first flight with the lowest-seeded jumpers. 

After fouling on his first attempt, Kroeger struck gold on his second, which thrust him into the lead. He held the lead through the first two flights, but with the more-accomplished jumpers coming next, Kroeger would undoubtedly drop. 

He did … but only slightly. Wayne Pinnock of Arkansas (26-5, 8.05m) and Nikaoli Williams of Oklahoma (26-1 ½, 7.96m) were the only ones who managed to do so, and Kroeger captured a stunning third. He becomes the first men’s long jumper from Stanford to reach the NCAA Championships since Milton Little in 2003. 

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been so surprising, given Kroeger’s superb season. Rather than just long jump, which he mostly did last year (with wind-legal best of 22-11/7.00m),…

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