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TAMPA, Fla. – On day one of the NCAA East Prelims in Tampa, Florida, a quartet of Columbia athletes got through to the next round with almost every runner putting up a season best performance.

Sam Ritz got Columbia’s day started in the men's 1,500m run, running out of the fourth and final heat of the first round. The junior clocked a 3:47.92 for fourth in his heat, grabbing the final automatic qualifying spot for Saturday’s quarterfinal.

In the women’s 1,500m, senior Sarah Hardie had a similar race to Ritz, taking fourth place in the fourth and final heat to grab an automatic spot for Saturday. With a 4:18.07, Hardie ran a career best and was just 0.03 off of Devon Martin’s school record run from 1990. Also competing in the women’s 1,500m run was Libby Kokes, who finished 33rd overall in 4:25.81. 

Of the 24 first round runners that advanced to the quarterfinals, Hardie and Ritz will have to be in the top five of their quarterfinal heat or have one of the next two fastest times in order to advance to the NCAA Finals in Eugene, Oregon.

A similar path to Eugene started to take shape for Akua Obeng-Akrofi in the 400m run. With a school record 52.30 that upset Sharay Hale’s 52.40 run from 2011, Obeng-Akrofi has the eighth fastest time heading into Friday’s quarterfinal. The senior will have to be in the top-three of her heat tomorrow at 1:15 p.m, or have one of the next three fastest times in order to advance to the NCAA Finals.

In the men’s 800m run, Alek Sauer ran the sixth best time among the 48-man field, clocking a 1:48.66 for second place in his heat to Clemson’s John Lewis, who ran the fastest time of the day at 1:47.81. Sauer’s bid for Eugene gets under way at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, with the top-three runners in each heat advancing to the NCAA Finals, along with the three next fastest times. Columbia’s Josiah Langstaff narrowly missed a trip to the quarterfinals in the 800m, running 1:49.72 out of the sixth heat for sixth place and 26th overall.

Day one will resume this evening, when Abby McLaughlin takes off in the 10,000m run at 9:40 p.m., with the top 12 runners advancing to Eugene.

Here’s what the rest of the Columbia schedule looks like: 

Friday, May 25
1:15 p.m. – Women’s 400m QF: Akua Obeng-Akrofi
2:00 p.m. – Men’s 800m QF: Alek Sauer
8:40 p.m. – Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase QF: Nell Crosby, Erin Melly

Saturday, May 26
1:00 p.m. – Men’s 1,500m QF: Sam Ritz
1:15 p.m. – Women’s 1,500m QF: Sarah Hardie
3:30 p.m. – Men’s Triple Jump: Daniel Igbokwe
4:15 p.m. – Women’s 4x400m Relay
8:05 p.m. – Men’s 5,000m SF: Ryan Thomas, Lucky Schreiner, Kenny Vasbinder, Brian Zabilski
8:45 p.m. – Women’s 5,000m SF: Erin Gregoire