Eugene, Ore. - Junior Hope Bender found herself capping off an astounding junior year campaign with a 12th place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships hosted at Historic Hayward Field, garnering another 2nd-Team All-American Honors distinguishment. Senior Jenna Hinkle faced a tall order in the first semi final heat of the women's 1500m at the championships and would ultimately not qualify for the final, but still received Honorable Mention honors for making it all the way to the championship meet.
Bender would open up in the 100m hurdles with a solid mark of 13.73 to start off the competition, putting her in early contention for an All-American spot. A solid 1.66m high jump and an 11.89 shot put would still have her hovering within the top 16 of 24 athletes in the field, but a fast clip in the 200m at 24.21 seconds would bump her up all the way to 9th place by the end of day one, just one spot off 1st Team All-American placings.
On the second day, the quality of the field Hope was in began to reveal itself going into the long jump where a 5.63m jump wouldn't cut it for the junior, slipping her back in placings leading into the javelin. Hope would actually set a new personal best throw of 35.85m during this portion of the competition, but again the field would best her, slipping her farther back to 15th place heading into the final event.
In near poetic fashion with the final event scheduled to go off later in the day, Hayward Field slowly adopted a more aquatic setting as a downpour of rain started to takes its toll. With pools of water beginning to form on the track and temperatures dropping into the 50s, Hope would need to pull out something fierce to keep her top 16 spot. Sticking to the lead runner in her heat as long as possible, Bender would close our her event in 2:15.24, her third fastest 800m of all time in less than ideal conditions, bumping herself back up to 12th and securing her 2nd-Team All-American placing.
Co-Interim Head Coach Gray Horn commented after her performance stating, "I couldn't be more proud of Hope's season. I'm most impressed with how consistent she was throughout this entire year. It's very difficult as a multi event athlete to show up and perform at an elite level every single competition. She shows no signs of slowing down, and her senior season is sure to be special."
Senior Jenna Hinkle would take on a star studded field in the women's 1500m, finding herself in the first semi final heat which would include eventual NCAA Champion Jessica Hull. In contrast to the cool conditions the pace would be scalding hot, the first 300m covered in a blistering 48 seconds, with Hinkle in tow just a second behind. A pair of 68 second laps would keep the strong pace rolling with Hinkle starting to fall back with just a lap to go, but still on track for a great time. Unfortunately the fast early goings would be too much for the senior to handle and she would finish outside the qualification time for the final with a 4:24.07 clocking. Out of the twelve athletes in her heat, seven would set personal bests with three of those not even making the final, so needless to say the field was a force to be reckoned with.
"She was in a tough heat that went fast from the beginning," remarked Co-Interim Head Coach Darius Terry. "Unfortunately she didn't quite have enough to qualify for the final. All in all, she had a great season and career for the Gauchos and I'm excited to see what the future has in store for her."
Hinkle will still walk away with USTFCCCA Honorable Mentions for getting all the way to the national meet, equalling her performance from last year's national championships, along with the knowledge that she remains the only Gaucho in school history to have made it to nationals in the 1500m, let alone twice.