Paulo Benavides | Sam Craft Photography
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – UTEP’s Paulo Benavides was the first Miner in over 20 years to advance to nationals in the pole vault, while a trio of sprinters – Sean Bailey, Shakeem Smith and Jevaughn Powell – earned spots in the next round on opening day in the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field West Preliminaries at E.B. Cushing Stadium.
“Great opening day us for. Paulo jumping close to his lifetime best and qualifying to NCAA Outdoor Championships’ final site was the highlight of the day for us,” UTEP Head Coach Mika Laaksonen said.
“Sean was convincing in his first round 400 heat, easily advancing to the quarterfinals on Thursday. Shakeem advanced to both the 110 hurdles and 400 hurdles into the quarterfinals as well as Jevaughn in the 200 meters.”
Benavides will compete in Eugene, Ore., at the NCAA OTF National Championships June 9-12 after the Franklin High School graduate cleared the bar with an outdoor collegiate personal-best 5.45m (17-10.5) mark. Benavides finished tied for second in Wednesday’s event.
Benavides is the first UTEP men’s pole vaulter to advance to nationals since Mikhail Gorbatenko went to Buffalo, N.Y., during the 1998 outdoor season.
Smith’s 13.90 (2.6) placed 24th in the men’s 110m hurdles, while the senior finished 16th in the 400m hurdles, clocking in a 50.94. Smith will run the quarterfinals on Friday, May 28. He’ll see action in the 110m H at 5:45 p.m. MT, and the 400m H at 6:55 p.m. MT.
Bailey finished second overall in the men’s 400m dash with a time of 45.65. The senior will compete in the quarterfinals at 6:20 p.m. MT on Friday.
Powell squeaked into the quarters, after the freshman placed 24th with a time of 20.91 in the 200m dash.
Ned Azemia recorded a personal-best 51.46 in the 400m hurdles, just missing the cut.
The women will take the track and the field on Thursday. Roosa Yloenen will compete in the javelin at 12:30 p.m. MT. Maribel Caicedo will leap the 100m hurdles at 5 p.m. MT in Heat 6 (lane 8). Denae McFarlane will run at 6 p.m. MT in the 100m in Heat 6 (lane 7).
“We competed hard, and proud of these guys. I’m hoping our ladies took notice for tomorrow,” Laaksonen added.