The new qualifying procedure for the 2012 National Championships took away automatic and provisional qualifiers and simply directed all interested observers to the descending order lists. 20 men and 22 women would be selected from atop the list of declared athletes. 16 relays would earn invitations. The final week of qualifying would settle the lists.
Three meets offered the Captains their final chances to earn berths to the National Championships. While most were focused on the NCAA Div. III Descending Order Lists, a few of the freshmen were also setting up for the USATF Junior National Championships, including Samuel Martin (Rockville, MD). Invited to participate in the inaugural high performance Virginia Challenge in Charlottesville, the rookie handled the fast field well with a near-PR 3:56.78. That time gave him his second dip under the Junior Nationals qualifying standard.
The full squad of Nationals hopefuls headed to the Philadelphia area for two meets, the first on Monday at Swarthmore College. Known for outstanding distance fields, the Captains did their part to add to the quality of the SWAT Final Qualifier. Senior Dira Hansen (Culpeper, VA) looked very strong in the fast section of the women's 800m. Leading the chase pack behind eventual winner AJ Wilson (2:05.19), Hansen slipped back in to the field briefly in the third 200m. Over the last half lap, however, she maintained composure and moved back up to third and closed to a 2:09.25. That assured her spot at Nationals, ranking fifth at the time, and lowered her own School Record by over three seconds.
After a breakthrough run at the Mason-Dixon Championships, sophomore Jessica McClelland (Stafford, VA) produced another in the 1500m. Her 4:48.95 dropped 8 more seconds off her best and jumped her up to #3 on the CNU All-Time List. Freshman Donovan Lewin (Cape Charles, VA) added a PR in the men's 1500m (4:15.35) and Daniel Richard (Manassas, VA) backed up his Conference PR with a 10:04.62 run in the Steeplechase. The women's 4x4 lowered their season best again to a Nationals trending 3:55.88 with the quartet of Caitlyn Pabst (East Patchogue, NY) (61.2), Kristen Bell (Vienna, VA) (58.9), Cheria Jackson (Woodbridge, VA) (58.1), and Fredsal Walker (Herndon, VA) (57.6).
Jackson paired her lifetime best relay split with a near PR in the Long Jump (5.38m/17-8). She was not alone in the near-best class on the infield as Kwarteng Asare (Fairfax, VA) came within an inch of his best Triple Jump (14.57m/47-9.75) to move up to #17 on the NCAA List. Joseph Taylor (Prince George, VA) was half a height below his PR in the Pole Vault (4.50m/14-9),and Jonathon Wade (Rocky Mount, VA) was about half a foot shy of his Discus best (38.23m/125-5).
After a couple days of training and relaxing around Philadelphia, the Captains made their final pre-Nationals efforts on Thursday at The College of New Jersey's Lion's Final Qualifier. Jade Zaharoff (Vienna, VA) ended her collegiate career with a win in the Steeplechase. Her 11:27.11 PR moved her up to #2 on the CNU All-Time List. Joseph Taylor ended a season frustrated by a shoulder injury with his first 15' clearance, improving his hold on CNU's #3 Ranking (4.61m/15-1.5). Jessica McClelland returned a CNU #10 Ranking in the 800m to her credentials with a PR 2:22.74. Daulton Teaford (Boyce, VA) matched his PR in the 200m that ranks him #10 in CNU History (22.03).
Three other Captains earned PRs in their season finale. Fredsal Walker cut two seconds off her 400m Hurdles best to 66.76 and Caitlyn Pabst dropped down to the 200m for a lifetime best 27.20. Daniel Richard is not quite done with his season, but earned a big 1500m PR (4:17.15) in his last flat race of the year before contesting the Steeplechase at Junior Nationals.
Nick Hedrick (Falls Church, VA) and Sam Martin staged yet another close dual in the 800m. Hedrick kept his string of narrow victories alive, besting his teammate 1:56.52-1:56.87. Jonathon Wade closed out his collegiate throwing career with a near-best 43.08m/141-4 and Cheria Jackson just missed her Long Jump best again - this time by just 1cm - landing at 5.43m/17-9.75.
Making a final push to move in to the Nationals field, Kwarteng Asare exactly matched his performance from earlier in the week (14.57m/47-9.75) and was left to sweat atop a thin bubble. The women's 4x400m Relay played their strongest hand with Dira Hansen running the first lap in a season best 57.3. That gave the Captains a commanding lead, but also left the middle legs to run time trials by themselves. Kristen Bell posted a 59.1 and Cheria Jackson followed with a 59.6. Johns Hopkins - themselves hoping for a Nationals berth - closed enough to apply pressure to CNU's anchor, but a 57.4 from Fedsal Walker held them off. The Captain's 3:53.51 moved the squad to 15th on the Div. III List and in the conversation for Nationals.
After a few anxious days of waiting, the NCAA announced the fields for the Division III Championships. Richard Roethel (Farmingville, NY) earned a share of the top seed in the High Jump and #2 in the Decathlon and a trip to Los Angeles. Hansen returned to the Championships as the #4 seed in the 800m and Jenna Elliott (Fredericksburg, VA) made her first Nationals tied for the #13 seed in the High Jump. Kwarteng Asare finished 22nd and just two spots out of the meet in the Triple Jump. The men's 4x100m Relay (Teaford/Robert Mays (Culpeper, VA)/Nathan Joyce (Ft. Belvoir, VA)/Roethel) also finished up at #22. The women's 4x400m Relay slipped to #23 in the final rankings. Roethel was close to having a third event with a #25 ranking in the Javelin and Hansen ended the year as D3's #33 400m Hurdler as she shifted her focus to the 800m.