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Raider track off to NAIA nationals

If the 5 a.m. departure to Louisville, Ky., didn't take — too much out of the 15 Raiders tracksters who qualified for the NAIA national — track and field championships, Southern Oregon University could soon be — returning home with one of its best showings at nationals to date.

In 2003 the Raiders boasted two All-Americans as both — the men's and women's teams placed in the latter half of the the point-scoring — teams.

As it stands this year, three individual athletes and — a relay team are ranked in the top-10 in their respective events. Athletes — must finish in the top-six to garner All-American status.

Junior triple jumper Nick Hanson may be a dark horse contender — for the national title. Hanson, the Cascade Conference champion in the — event, ranks fifth in the nation with his 49-5 personal record. The top-eight — entrants in the men's triple jump are separated by just 17 inches.

Junior Sean Peterson holds the school record in the 1,500 — meters at 3:51.81, a time that pushes him to the No. 8 seed going into — the race. Peterson cruised to victory in the event at the league championship — meet. Teammate junior Trevor Palmer trails him by seconds with his 3:53.66 — split and No. 11 seed.

Red-shirt freshman Travis Wheeler, a two-time winner at — the Cascade Conference Championships, rounds out Southern's best opportunities — to score All-American status. Wheeler earned a trip to the season-culminating — showcase at the Last-Chance Meet on May 14 when he hurled the discus 162-8 — 1/2. The mark breaks into the top-10 in the nation, placing Wheeler ninth — heading into this weekend's national championship.

A Raiders relay team also has All-American hopes. The — men's 4x800-meter squad has the seventh-fastest time in the NAIA. Jeff — Olson, Dusty Waugh, Ross Dexter and Palmer zoomed to a school-record 7:45 — for the two-mile jaunt, though Dexter will miss nationals due to a foot — injury. Peterson, like Palmer, will balance two events in Louisville when — he replaces Dexter on the team.

Ryan Pfeil, a sophomore cross country all-star, enters — the 10,000 meters seeded 15th with his 32:09.06 clip, while Tyler Nitzke — rates 17th in the 400-meter dash at 48.30. Bart Maney rounds out the Raider — men's contingent with his 27th-place seed in the 100 meters (10.80).

For the women, senior All-American Megan Heuberger aims — to mirror her 2002 fifth-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles. She enters — the event in 10th place with a season-best 1:03.17 and will also run legs — on the women's 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relay teams. The short relay — squad ranks 12th, while the mile relay team is 16th.

Fellow senior sprinter Andrea Eide, who broke the school — record in the 100 meters this year with her 12.17 effort, will compete — on the two female relays in addition to trying to crack into the top-six — in the 100-meter spring. She sits in the No. 17 position entering the — meet.

Other female performers include Brook Jaentsch in the — high jump (25th at 5-4) and cross country All-American and school record-holder — Brynn Cogdill in the 1,500 meters (15th, 4:44.60).