Two Spartans Reach Finals at NCAA Championships

Michigan State track & field (PHOTO:  MSU SID)
Michigan State track & field (PHOTO: MSU SID)

Benoit and Kiprotich Reach Finals at NCAA Championships

As the men take center stage, the Spartans start the championship strong.

EUGENE, Ore. - In the first day of action at the NCAA Championships, the Michigan State track & field team had two athletes reach finals at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Senior Max Benoit advanced to the finals in the 3,000m steeplechase, while junior Justine Kiprotich will compete in his second-straight final in the 1,500m.

Along with the two Spartans on the track, MSU had two in action in the men’s decathlon, with senior Tim Ehrhardtand sophomore Nick Guerrantcompeting. After five events, Ehrhardt is sixth with 4,185 points, while Guerrant is 13th with 3,990 points.

After dealing with extreme heat at both the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington and the NCAA Prelims in Tampa, the weather was much more moderate in Eugene, providing for solid results.

“I think the team was outstanding today. To have everyone advance and be close to their best is fantastic. I expect both the multi guys (Guerrant and Ehrhardt) and the guys in the finals (Benoit and Kiprotich) to be excited and ready to go,” Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Walt Drenth said.

Track Events

Kiprotich advanced to his second-straight final, finishing fifth in the second heat of the 1,500 to qualify on time. He crossed the line with a clocking of 3:50.03. The 2017 NCAA Champion Josh Kerr of New Mexico had the fastest time overall, 3:47.47. Last season, Kiprotich was the NCAA runner-up in this event, earning first-team All-American honors.

“Justine looked outstanding today. He has really turned into a leader. He went from someone who was happy to make it to Nationals, to someone with great understand of how to navigate this whole thing. So, I think he has been a great influence on the other kids,” Drenth said.

“I expected a little more honest race, and it was a little more tactical, but I am okay with that,” Kiprotich said. “I felt really comfortable out there today and had like 700 or 800m left so I was happy with how I raced today. I am feeling more confident, heading into the finals.”

Appearing in his first NCAA Championship, Benoit reached his first final with an amazing final 20 meters to secure his spot. Benoit finished with a time of 8:44.94, just shy of his personal-best time of 8:44.32 set at the NCAA Preliminary Round in Tampa. The senior was among the leaders the bulk of the race, even leading for several laps. Syracuse’s Noah Affolder started to pull away, leading to Benoit and Tulane’s Emmanuel Rotich to fight for the final spot.

“It was the goal to get to the finals all year. I didn’t want to settle, get to Eugene have a poor race and call it a career. I wanted to get to the highest level that I could and race against the best guys. I am grateful that I will be able to do that on Friday. I kind of knew that my time wasn’t going to get in so I put all my effort into getting him (Rotich), and I had a good last hurdle and was able to pass him,” said Benoit.

“It was a great effort from Max,” Drenth said. “Right from the start, he made the race honest and he was able to rebound. His last couple barriers and his last hurdle were really keys. Max was able to hurdle well and keep momentum heading to the finish line. I am really proud of him. To come to your first NCAA Championship and lead a large portion of the race and to advance is no small task.”

Field Events

The day began with the decathlon. In the first event, Ehrhardt finished with a time of 10.87. Running in the third heat, Guerrant earned a personal best with a time of 10.90. There were a lot of big jumps throughout the field in the long jump. Ehrhardt followed suit with a season-best jump of 7.43m. Guerrant captured his second-straight PR with a jump of 7.16 on his second attempt. His previous best was 6.97m at the Louisville Invitational in April.

Both Spartans struggled with the shot put. However, Ehrhardt and Guerrant both rebounded nicely in the high jump. Ehrhardt ended with a huge personal-best with a jump of 2.01m. His previous best was at the Virginia Challenge in April. Guerrant finished just shy of his best with a jump of 1.98m. In the final event of the first day, Ehrhardt won the 400m with a time of 47.92, while Guerrant ended strong with a time of 49.67.

“I thought they both did really well today. You don’t expect five PRs on the first day, but coming back from the shot put and jumping well was really a key for them. It gave them good momentum heading into the 400 and both of them ran that race really well,” Drenth said. “We have talked to them about making sure that you let an event go. I think having them both here at the same time is great. It is really good for their energy sense of purpose. I am really excited for them. They are second-day guys.”

Michigan State will continue action on Thursday, June 7 with the conclusion of the decathlon. Aside from the decathlon, Thursday’s focus will be on the women, as Sophia Franklin (pole vault), Katelyn Daniels (shot put) and Dillon McClintock (1,500m) will all be in action.

Michigan State Results

Decathlon (Wednesday)

6. Tim Ehrhardt / 4,185 points

100m - 10.87

long jump - 7.43m

shot put - 12.73m

high jump - 2.01m

400m - 49.67

13. Nick Guerrant/ 3,990 points

100m - 10.90

long jump - 7.16m

shot put - 12.56m

high jump - 1.98m

400m - 47.92

Men’s 1,500m - Prelims (Wednesday)

5 (heat 2). Justine Kiprotich / 3:50.53

Men’s 3,000m Steeplechase - Prelims (Wednesday)

5 (heat 2). Max Benoit / 8:44.94

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