Thursday, June 9, 2011

Richmond's Benford Competes in NCAA 3K Steeple Semi-Final

Andrew Benford competed in heat #1 of the men's 3K steeplechase semi-final of the NCAA Championships.  Benford came into the race with a personal best 8:39.71 from two weeks earlier. The top 6 athletes in each of 2 heats plus the next 2 fastest times from the 2 races automatically advanced to finals. (Dan Petty photo)
After a good start Benford moved up throughout the race clipping off 70 second laps...He maneuvered between 5th-8th place throughout the early laps. (Dan Petty photo)
Andrew moved up into position to strike with 800M to go...With 600M remaining he surged into 4th place in his heat race looking like a lock to make finals. (Dan Petty photo)
After a very good 2800M of racing the worst thing that could happen...did happen...He was in 4th with 150M remaining...As he came up on the last water barrier his lead leg slipped off the hurdle which is a disaster. His trail leg crushed the barrier and....
(Dan Petty photo)
 ...then he splashed and completely submerged in the water pit.  (Dan Petty photo)
He recovered from this fall extremely well and recovered enough to only slip to 5th place with 100M to go in the race…with the top 6 automatically advancing to finals. (Dan Petty photo)
After recovering from the fall at the water pit it still appeared he would advance to finals since the top 6 runners in the race had separated from the field. Then as he approached the last barrier, 80M from the finish, he went to hurdle it…cleared with his lead leg, but his trail leg crushed the barrier. When he fell this time he got up a lot slower and was passed by 2 people leaving him in 8th with a chance to still make finals by time…Benford gathered himself from the 2nd fall and went hard to the finish...but he was passed by Steve Finley (Oregon) at the line to place 9th in his section. (Dan Petty photo)  
The 2nd section was a little slower race, and when it concluded Benford missed making finals by 0.11...both time qualifiers came from his section. With the two falls he came up 11 one-hundredths of a second short of making finals finishing 15th (14 advance to finals).

Men's 3K Steeple Semi-Final Results

As Andrew's coach, I feel terrible for him…He worked extremely hard for over 5 years to get to this moment in time and was ready for the competition.  Unfortunately, the last 18 seconds of this race cost him his NCAA dream. A tough pill to swallow here in Des Moines, but also part of our sport…It's also IMO what makes our sport so special and true.  It forces each person to line up and prove themselves  "mano a mano" each and every time.  As athletes and coaches we prepare to be the best...In Andrew's case, he dedicated himself to achieve the highest level of success both in the classroom and the track.  With a remarkable career for the Spiders he will move onto many more successes greater than those he has achieved in the past 5 years.  I'm personally looking forward to the next chapter which begins in 2 weeks at the USATF National Championships.

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