By DIEGO LOZANO III
With the NJCAA Outdoor Championships nearly a month away, the Pima Community College track and field teams are starting to get hot at just the right time.
At the Glendale Last Gasp Meet on April 13, Pima increased its list of national-qualifying athletes after sophomore Lucas Ruiz broke the tape in the 1,500-meter run in 3 minutes, 58 seconds to claim his spot for national championship action in Hutchinson, Kan., on May 16-18.
The Aztecs made their presence known as sophomore Luis Gonzalez also took the top spot in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, clocking 10:01.10.
Freshmen jumpers Brianna Rodriguez and Marlee Sherwood each had impressive showings down in the sand pits, as each accumulated a top-3 finish.
Rodriguez leaped to 16-2 in the long jump on her best effort to finish third. Sherwood’s best series of jumps put her at 37-3, just inches behind the top finisher.
Before Glendale, the squads traveled north for the Mesa Classic Invitational and the Sun Angel Classic at Arizona State University on the weekend of April 5-6.
Ruiz and freshmen Caleb Herrera and Tyler Stamp each eclipsed the national-qualifying time for the 5,000 at Mesa by at least 10 seconds to punch their tickets to Hutchinson.
The Pima women were on fire at Mesa, as sophomore Jamie Shrader also added her name to the national-qualifying list with her third-place finish in the 1,500 in 4:57.78.
Freshman Kathy Fisher stepped up to the plate at Mesa, blazing down the track in the 400 hurdles for the first time this season. She earned a spot to Hutchinson after her qualifying time of 1:05.24 gave her a fourth-place finish.
Sophomore speedster Aly Haskell, who recently signed a letter of intent to compete at the University of Colorado next season, sprinted to a fourth-place finish in the 400 after clocking her final time of 56.83.
Pima found a bright spot in the javelin throw after freshman Stuart Landis launched the spear 184-10, tallying his best mark of the season.
Freshmen Deante Gaines and Khalil Hakim and sophomore Antonio Jeter also combined for three top-10 finishes in the long jump. Gaines and Jeter finished second and third respectively, while Hakim took seventh.
Gaines also stretched out to 47-4 in the triple jump, racking up a third-place finish, while Hakim jumped 42-9 to finish a few spots below at eighth.
Wilcox has been in beast mode throughout the season, and jumped to second place at Mesa. His highest mark was 6-7.
Wilcox also took fifth place at the Sun Angel meet with a two-inch improvement of 6-9, competing against top-tier athletes.
Freshman Nikki Regalado, who has already qualified in the 5,000, battled to 14th at Sun Angel against heavy competition, while of shattering the school record for the event with her time of 17:52.85.
Sophomore Labriel Leach continued to showcase his talents in the 400 hurdles in front of national scouts at the Sun Angel Classic with his third-place finish in 53.34 seconds, placing above many Division I athletes.
With 19 athletes already booked to compete in national championship action, the Aztecs have been a model of consistency throughout the outdoor season.
PCC will return to Glendale for the second ACCAC Conference Meet on April 20 to attempt to add to their already stellar roster of championship competitors.