Harding Track opens outdoor Nationals Thursday

From Harding University

Six members of the Harding men's track and field team will begin competition Thursday at the 2011 NCAA II Outdoor Track and Field Championships, hosted by Cal State University-Stanislaus.

The top eight runners or teams in each event receive All-America honors. Points are also awarded to the top eight runners in each event with the team earning the most points capturing the national championship.

Student-athletes qualified for the national meet reached predetermined standards throughout the season and received invitations from the NCAA to compete based on their top performances. Between 16-22 student-athletes will compete in each event.

Harding senior Daniel Kirwa and junior Wojciech Kopec will run their preliminary races Thursday, and the 4x400 relay team comprised of senior Blake Arnold, freshman Landon Belcher, sophomore Kory Howard and junior Milton Stewart will run its preliminary Friday.

Kirwa, of Eldoret, Kenya, will compete in both the 1500 meters and 5000 meters. It is his fourth appearance in the national meet. Kirwa will compete in the 1500 meters at nationals for the first time in his storied career at Harding that includes six outdoor All-America honors and three national championships.

One of Kirwa's national championships came in the 5000 meters in 2009. He has also placed second in the event in 2008 and fourth in 2010. Kirwa also won national championships in the 10,000 meters in 2008 and 2009, but will not compete in the race this weekend.

Kopec, a native of Poland, qualified in the 3000-meter steeplechase. It will be his first appearance at the national meet.

The 4x400 relay team will be seeking its first All-America honors in the event since 2003.

Schedule for Harding runners (All times Central)

Daniel Kirwa

1500 meter prelims, Thursday, 7:55 p.m.

1500 meter final, Saturday, 8:15 p.m.

5000 meter final, Saturday, 10:00 p.m.

Wojciech Kopec

3000-meter steeplechase prelims, Thursday, 9:40 p.m.

3000-meter steeplechase final, Friday, 10:05 p.m.

4x400 relay

Prelims, Friday, 10:40 p.m.

Finals, Saturday, 11:35 p.m.