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Clayton St. runners fail to qualify for NCAA finals

From Staff Reports

From Staff Reports

Clayton College & State University's Tony Juarez and Eric Simmons competed in the NCAA Division II Track & Field Championships Thursday, but neither were able advance to the finals in their respective events at the national meet held at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calf.

Senior Juarez placed 17th in the 1500-meter race, while freshman Simmons came in 16th in the 400-meter race. Simmons along with his 4x400m teammates will return to the track on Friday for the preliminaries of the 4x400 relay event.

Simmons finished the 400meters with a time of 48.05 and placed sixth in his heat behind winner Jordan Varden of Livingstone College with a time of 46.55.

He entered the race as the third-fastest Division II freshman and ranked 18th overall with a school record time of 47.47 at the Georgia Tech Invitational.

St. Augustine's Nathaniel McKinney had the fastest 400-meters time of the day, winning the second heat with a time of 46.25. The top three finishers of the three heats plus the next six fastest times advanced to the finals on Saturday.

"Eric didn't have his best race of the season but still did well. He is just a freshman, and I think he was battling nerves a bit," said head coach Mike Mead. "Getting this race under his belt will help him, and he'll be ready to go tomorrow in the 4x400." Juarez placed eighth in his preliminary heat of the 1500m with a time of 4:05.11. South Dakota State's Brad Lowery won the heat with a time of 4:01.95. The top five finishers in each of the two heats Thursday, plus the next two fastest times advanced to the Saturday's finals.

"Tony had a bit of bad luck as the first heat was more of a tactical race, and he got caught up in the pack and was unable to make a move into the top five where could've qualified for the finals," said head coach Mike Mead. "Tony had a super career at Clayton State and set a high mark for our distance runners in the future."

Abilene Christian's Bernard Manirakiza had the fastest time of the second heat in the 1500m, winning with a time of 3:51.98. Seven of the nine runners in the second heat qualified for the finals on Saturday.

The race ends Juarez's decorated running career at Clayton State. He holds Clayton State's 1500m record with a time of 3:50.91, set earlier this season at the Butler Twilight.

He also holds the school record in the 800m, 3000m and 5000m events, as well as, the school marks in the cross country in the 8K and 10K events.

Along with Simmons, the relay team of senior Rother Heard junior Carlos Guyton and freshman Brian Etelman will compete in the preliminaries of 4x400 meters relay on Friday.

The Clayton State relay team will enter the meet seeded as the seventh fastest 4x 400 meters team in Division II and have a solid shot at All-America honors .that will go to the top eight finishers.