LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Saint Mary’s track season came to an historic end this weekend, as Gabe Arias and Zach Hansen both closed the year competing as the first Gaels to ever participate in the NCAA West Preliminary Meet on Friday and Saturday.
Arias competed Friday in the men’s 10,000 meters, finishing 28th in 30 minutes, 32.42 seconds. Arias was just 30 seconds away from the final NCAA Championships qualifying spot in what was a strategic race for the 12 spots to Eugene, Ore., for the national meet.
“I really appreciated the chance to run at NCAAs this year,” said Arias. “The race was tough and the level of competition was very high. The change of pace in the race was challenging and new to me but I’m happy I was able to get experience in a race like this one with so many top runners.
“Although I didn’t get to move on to the national finals, I’m still happy how my season turned out. Races like this fuel me to work harder and having this experience will definitely help me be ready to compete next season.”
Adverse weather threw a wrench into the weekend, eliminating all of Thursday’s scheduled competition and reshuffling Friday and Saturday’s schedules. Arias, originally scheduled to run on Thursday night, instead raced at 8:40 a.m. CDT Friday morning. Hansen, meanwhile, was moved straight to the 1,500-meter quarterfinals, not needing to run in Thursday’s first round after it was cancelled.
Hansen earned a top-20 West Region finish in the 1,500, running 3:45.74 to finish 20th. The men’s 1,500 was even more strategic than Arias’ 10,000 with runners looking solely to secure a qualifying spot to the national championship. All four “next fastest times” qualifiers came from the third and fourth heats after they had already seen the times from the first two heats. The top-10 qualifiers were all within less than a second of each other, from 3:43.14 to 3:44.08.
“The season didn’t end exactly how I wanted to, but I still had a lot of fun,” said Hansen. “This race gave me a lot of experience in terms of high-intensity races. I also want to thank the coaches for a great season.”
Hansen will look to continue his outdoor track season with several international meets in Canada this summer as he searches for another personal record. Hansen set the Saint Mary’s school record in the 1,500 this season with a 3:42.64 at the Payton Jordan Invitational on May 1.
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