Five track & field athletes heading to nationals

(L-R) Aedin Brennan, Ajai Brooks, Hannah Hall, Arlesha Cospy and David Carter
(L-R) Aedin Brennan, Ajai Brooks, Hannah Hall, Arlesha Cospy and David Carter

Denison will be sending five athletes to the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship held at Walston-Hoover Stadium on the campus of Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. The three-day meet will begin on Thursday, May 26 and run through Saturday, May 28.

This year's meet will mark the first time since 1987 that Denison will send at least five athletes to an NCAA Track & Field Championship. That year, the Big Red saw five men qualify for the national outdoor meet. Additionally, the four female athletes will be the most sent to the NCAA Track & Field Championship in program history. In 2014, Denison had three women compete at the outdoor meet. Eight-time national qualifier Aedin Brennan will be joined by freshman Ajai Brooks, who will be making her second national appearance, and first time NCAA participants Hannah HallArlesha Cospy and David Carter.

"We are very excited about nationals," said Denison Head Coach Mark FitzPatrick. "We are looking forward to a good meet. It will be a special because it is Aedin's last collegiate meet. I'm very glad that she will be able to share the experience with her teammates and mentor them at the same time as well."

Brennan leads the quintet as she get set to compete at her eighth national meet. The seven time All-American and reigning national champion in the heptathlon enters the Division III meet with the second-best heptathlon score in the country after re-setting her own conference record in the event at the North Coast Athletic Conference Combined Events Championship. The senior's score of 5,008 points is second only to Carleton senior Amelia Campbell who scored 5,058 points at the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Multis earlier this season. Last year, Campbell finished fourth with 4,924 points. In 2014, she was the national champion in both the indoor pentathlon and outdoor heptathlon.

In addition to the heptathlon, Brennan will also be in search of her second-consecutive All-American award in the triple jump at this year's NCAA outdoor meet. Coming off an eighth-place showing at last year's outdoor championship, the Fairport, N.Y. native checks in with the 13th-best mark at 38'8.75" which is 11 inches shy of her school-record performance. Day one of the heptathlon is scheduled to start at 12 p.m. EDT on Thursday, while the second day's events will begin at 1 p.m. EDT. Prelims of The women's triple jump are scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday. The top nine performances from the preliminary round will advanced to the finals.

"While it is bittersweet that we are losing Aedin, arguably the best track & field athlete in school history, to graduation, it is encouraging to know that we have a bright future with two first-years and two sophomores competing at nationals," said FitzPatrick.

Brooks will be making her second national appearance after earning All-American honors in the 200-meter dash at the 2016 NCAA Indoor meet. The freshman currently owns the fifth-fastest 200-meter time in Division III this season. The 2016 NCAC Sprinter of the Year became the school record holder in the 200 with a winning time of 24.38 at the NCAC Championship meet.

Brooks also qualified for the 100-meter dash with a school-record time of 12.07. The Washington, D.C. native achieved that time three times this year, with the most recent coming at last Thursday's All-Great Lakes Elite Meet held at Ohio Wesleyan. She currently ranks 20th on the national list. The prelims of the 200 are scheduled for Thursday at 4:45 pm EDT, while the 100-meter prelims are slated for Friday at 6:30 p.m. EDT. The eight fastest times in both events will advance to Saturday's finals. The 100-meter final will take place at 3:40 p.m. EDT, while the final of the 200 is scheduled to begin at 4:50 p.m. EDT.

The Big Red have three athletes making their debut at nationals this year in Hall, Cospy and Carter. Sophomores  and , and freshman  will all be making their first appearance at the NCAA Championship meet. Hall currently ranks tied for sixth in the high jump after becoming the school-record holder with a mark of 5'7". The New Richmond, Ohio native surpassed Katherine Krulia's school record of 5'4.50" on April 1 at the VertKlasse Meeting held at High Point University. The women's high jump will take place on Friday at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

Cospy will enter next weekend's NCAA Championship event with the 14th-best performance in the discus. The sophomore's top performance came at the NCAC Championship where she broke a 13-year old record held by former Denison All-American Laura Finkes. The Trotwood, Ohio native won the event with a personal-best toss of 149'10", three feet farther than the second-place performance and 4'4" better than Finkes' conference record. Prelims of the women's discus are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday. The top nine performances from the preliminary round will advanced to the finals.

Heading into his first NCAA meet, Carter ranks tied for 20th in the triple jump. The New Albany, Ohio native turned in a personal-record jump of 47'3" at the NCAC Outdoor Championship held at Denison's Piper Stadium on May 6. That mark earned his second-place in the event and his second all-conference honor. Carter is one of three freshman that qualified for the event this season. Prelims of the men's triple jump are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The top nine performances from the preliminary round will advanced to the finals.

"We believed that Arlesha and Hannah would be national qualifiers when we were recruiting them," FitzPatrick said. "It is nice to see them progressing accordingly. Ajai and David have been very pleasant surprises this year. We knew they would be good, but we did not expect them to qualify for nationals as first-year students."