It’s an 880-mile, 15-hour drive from Long Beach to Eugene, Ore., but several local athletes earned a free trip there by securing a spot in this year’s NCAA Track & Field championships.
The NCAA finals, which will be at historic Heyward Field at the University of Oregon, will run from June 7 to June 10. This year’s event will feature six local athletes from Poly, Wilson and Millikan, as well as Long Beach State.
Headlining things for Long Beach track fans is Poly alum and 8-time state champion Ariana Washington, who has already claimed three NCAA individual championships while running for Oregon. The Ducks sophomore star won last year’s 100 and 200, the first time ever that a freshman had achieved that feat and the first woman since 1998 to pull off the double.
An Olympian at Rio in 2016, Washington followed that up in this year’s indoor NCAA title meet by winning her third individual national championship, easily winning the 200.
Washington will face stiff competition in her attempt to repeat this year, particularly from teammate Deajah Stevens, who is the top qualifier in both sprints. Washington was the fourth qualifier in the 100 with a time of 11.08 at the NCAA regionals and the fifth qualifier in her best event, the 200, with a time of 22.44.
Washington will be joined in Eugene by her best friend from high school and a former state champion at Poly as well, LSU hurdler Kymber Payne. The junior is the top qualifier in the 400 hurdles with a blazing PR time of 55.50 — the second-fastest qualifier ran a 56.13. Payne and Washington were the stars of Poly’s state championship team in 2014, when the Jackrabbits won the team state championship with 70 points.
The other local athlete competing in the NCAA women’s championships will be Long Beach State’s Riley Cooks, who makes her return to the national level as a heptathlete. Cooks has qualified 13th overall in the heptathlon. This will be the first time the heptathlon and decathlon is contested as part of the NCAA finals meet.
On the men’s side, high jumper Vincent Calhoun will be representing both Long Beach State, where he’s a junior, as well as Poly, his high school alma mater. Calhoun is the 17th qualifier in the high jump with a qualifying mark of 2.15 meters.
Millikan alum Misana Viltz also won a state title while in high school, as part of a Moore League dominated 2014 state finals. Viltz’s best event then is still his best event now, as he competes during his junior year at UCLA: the 110 hurdles. Viltz is the 10th qualifier and will fight for a spot in the championship race during qualifying, as he tries to lower his qualifying mark of 13.68.
Another standout Moore Leaguer is Mar’yea Harris, a Wilson alum who will be running the quarter mile for Iowa. Harris, a sophomore, is the 13th qualifier in the 400 with a mark of 45.45.
All four days of action will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks, though a full schedule of which races will be on which networks hasn’t been released yet. Here’s a schedule of when the local athletes will compete:
Ariana Washington, 100: Semifinals Thursday, 5:46 p.m.; Finals Saturday, 4:22 p.m.
Ariana Washington, 200: Semifinals Thursday, 6:44 p.m.; Finals Saturday, 5:07 p.m.
Kymber Payne, 400 Hurdles: Semifinals Thursday, 6:30 p.m.; Finals Saturday, 4:57 p.m.
Riley Cooks, Heptathlon: 12:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Saturday
Vincent Calhoun, Long Jump: Finals Friday, 5 p.m.
Misana Viltz, 110 Hurdles: Semifinals Wednesday, 5:32 p.m.; Finals Friday, 6:12 p.m.
Mar’yea Harris, 400: Semifinals Wednesday, 6 p.m.; Finals Friday, 6:32 p.m.