KINGSVILLE, Texas --- Tusculum University senior Nicole McMillen qualified for the finals in the women's steeplechase at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field Championships following her performance in Thursday's preliminaries at Javelina Stadium on the campus of Texas A&M Kingsville.
McMillen automatically qualified for Friday's finals with a third-place finish in her heat in a time of 10:58.33. She and 11 other runners will compete in the finals on Friday at 8:15 p.m. Eastern.
Running in the second of two heats, McMillen only needed to finish in the top four to guarantee advancement to the finals. Other than the 600-meter mark, when McMillen was fifth, she ran in the top three for the entire race and turned in the seventh-best time in the field of 20 runners.
With temperatures in the mid 80s at race time and a second race awaiting in 24 hours, the field ran 30 to 60 seconds slower than their seed times. Hanna Groeber of Grand Valley State was the top runner at 10:51.77, followed by Julia Howley of Simon Fraser (10:52.07) and Alicja Koniecek of Western Colorado (10:52.61).
McMillen, who won the South Atlantic Conference championship in the steeplechase and was the only runner in the field from the Southeast Region, ran in the same heat as Groeber and Konieczek, with Howley winning the first heat by 2 1/2 seconds over Eilish Flanagan of Adams State.