Jacksonville, FL— Buffalo Junior Leon Atkins became the first UB Male athlete to qualify in the 800m for the NCAA Final Championships on Friday evening, as the middle-distance specialist qualified with a time of 1:49.87, finishing with the 12th fastest time in a field of 48 runners from all over the eastern United States. Atkins becomes the first UB Male athlete to qualify in the 800m event for the NCAA Final Championships.
The six-heat preliminary round on Thursday had a starting field of 48 competitors. After a strong and relaxed preliminary round 800m on Thursday evening, Atkins returned Friday evening for the quarter final round, becomming one of just 24 athletes who advanced to Friday's quarter final. The top three finishers from each of the three quarter final heats, along with the next three fastest times, would advance to the NCAA Final rounds in Austin, TX.
Atkins ran a tactical and aggressive race, pushing to the top-two places with 150m to go. With just 15m to go, an athletes from William & Mary and Liberty colleges made a run to edge out Atkins as he held on to fourth place with just .35 separating 1st through 5th place in the race. Atkins' finishing time of 1:49.87 earned him a time qualifying spot to advance to the NCAA Final Championships in Austin, Texas slated to take place June 5-8 at the University of Texas Austin.
For a video of Atkins' historic finish, click the link here: https://twitter.com/NCAATrackField/status/1132058053891674112
Atkins, who holds the third fastest 800m time in UB School History, becomes the first ever to advance to the NCAA Finals. Over the last six years, Buffalo Distance Coach Todd Witzleben's impressive middle distance record includes numerous MAC Champions in the event 800m, as well as several NCAA East Preliminary qualifiers, but this becomes Witzleben's first NCAA Final qualifier in the event.
Also competing for the Bulls today was junior Sam Wray. Wray entered the men's Discus Throw seeded #36 in the event. On Sam's opening throw, he hit 53.01m/173'11", which placed him #29 overall, moving seven spots from his seed and narrowly missing the cut to advance to the NCAA Championships.
Three more Bulls compete tomorrow in the Preliminary Rounds with hopes of joining Atkins in Austin, Texas.:
· Devon Patterson in the Shot Put
· Brandon Burke in the High Jump
· Shevaughn Allen in the Triple Jump