UCF Track & Field will have two members competing at the NCAA tournament in two events this week.
It will be the first time UCF students have competed in the 10,000-meter run and the hammer throw at the NCAA Championships.
From June 8 to June 11, redshirt junior Anne-Marie Blaney, an Academic All-District 12 team member, will compete in the 10,000-meter run, and junior Tayla Greene will compete in the hammer throw in Eugene, Oregon, also known as “TrackTown USA.”
“We have a lot of pride for the school,” Blaney said. “I can’t wait to represent UCF.”
UCF, the American Athletic Conference runner-up, is coached by Jeanette Bolden, a three-time NCAA championship coach, former United States Olympic team coach and an Olympic gold medalist.
“One thing I wanted to do going in my third year here is to have balance,” Bolden said. “It shows this year with having two young ladies, first time in history going [to the NCAA Championships] in the 10,000 and hammer throw. We’re really excited about that.”
Neither Blaney or Greene have competed on a stage as big as the NCAA Championships.
“Just to finally have made it, I feel like [not] everyone has to have a chance to go to Oregon,” Blaney said. “Now is my time.”
Blaney’s personal best in the 10,000-meter run is 33:24.33, a UCF record. Greene’s personal-best hammer throw is 196-3/59.82 meters, another school record.
“I think the adrenaline I’m going to have is going to push me to me to throw farther,” Greene said. “My goal for the season was to hit 60, but I’m going to go up there and hit 61.”
For Track & Field athletes, the NCAA championships is the biggest stage they can compete on at the college-level. Eugene, Oregon, is a world-renowned track town where many U.S Olympic trials have been held. The 2016 trials will be held in Eugene once again for the upcoming summer Olympic games.
“It will be nice to be surrounded by everyone who feels so strongly about the track community, too,” Blaney said.
In the NCAA East Preliminary Round, Blaney finished in third place with a time of 34:19.83, and Greene finished sixth with a throw of 196-3/59.82 meters, but the NCAA Champions draws competitive athletes from all around the country.
The top hammer thrower in the country is senior DeAnna Price of Southern Illinois University, who finished first in the NCAA West Preliminary Round with a throw of 235-1/71.66 meters.
“The rest of the competitors, they’re amazing,” Greene said.
In the 10,000-meter run, the best time in the preliminary rounds was 34.10.54 by senior Tara Jameson of Iona University.
“We all pretty much run around the same time,” Blaney said. “Everyone’s going to be fast.”
Bolden said that Blaney and Greene are very well prepared for the task at hand.
“You never know what can happen every given day,” Bolden said. “They just have to go out there and do their best. I’ve won three national championships, one thing I know for sure is that any given day, anything can happen … their natural nerves will take over and they’ll do their best.”
Jean Racine is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @jeangracine or email him at JeanR@CentralFloridaFuture.com