June 3, 2008
Butler junior Andy Baker will be heading to Des Moines, Iowa, to compete in the 2008 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championship, which will be hosted by Drake University at Drake Stadium, June 11-14. The Butler distance ace earned an at-large invitation for the men's 5,000 meter run at the national meet.
Baker qualified for an at-large berth by placing 11th in the 5,000 meter run at the Mideast Regional hosted by the University of Arkansas on May 30-31. His time of 14:30.82 left him just six-tenths of a second shy of a "Top 10" finish in the race. He was ranked 19th heading into the regional meet, and he was the second at-large selection in the country, less than a second behind Stephen Furst of North Carolina. Furst, who has run 13:49.19, is ranked seventh in the meet, while Baker is ranked 10th at 13:49.87. Colorado's Brent Vaughn leads the 5,000 meter field at 13:18.46.
"I'm excited to see Andy qualify for the NCAA meet," said Butler head coach Matt Roe. "It is rare to see an elite athlete drop nearly a minute in the 5,000 in one year's time, as Andy did. He has come a long, long way this year, and I believe he has more in him as well."
Baker will run in the semifinals of the men's 5,000 meter race at 8:50 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday, June 11. The top 16 competitors from the semifinals will compete for the national championship at 9:35 p.m. on Friday, June 13.
Butler senior Genni Gardner, who placed 12th in the 5,000 meter run at the Mideast Regional, missed an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship by less than two seconds. Gardner competed in the national meet a year ago.
"It's a bit of a heart-breaker to see Genni miss the opportunity to return to the national meet by such a small margin," noted Roe. "Overall, however, she has had the best year of running in her career. For the first time, she qualified as an individual for the NCAA Cross Country Championship in the fall. She broke Horizon League records in both indoor and outdoor track, and she was the most outstanding female track athlete at the outdoor league championships. More importantly, she consistently ran at a higher level than ever before. She can be justly proud of her performance."
Butler has had a competitor in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championship in every year since 2000. The last Butler athlete to earn All-America honors at the outdoor national meet was Victoria Mitchell, who won the women's 3,000 meter steeplechase at the 2005 national meet.