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SOU distance relay fifth in prelims

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Southern Oregon has recently been something of a men's distance medley relay powerhouse, but without them in the mix this year, the Raider women gave themselves a chance to carry on the tradition Thursday with a qualifying preliminary time at the NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Competing in the women's event for the first time at the national meet, the Raiders clocked a time of 12:04.91 — good for third in their heat and fifth of 18 teams overall. The top two teams in the two heats and the next four fastest times overall qualified for Saturday's final, which will start at approximately 1:20 p.m. Pacific Time.

The Raider quartet included Aspen Abbott on the 400-meter leg, Jessie Rozario on the 800, Kayle Blackmore on the 1,200 and Jessa Perkinson on the mile. The time that made them qualifiers for nationals was 12:18.75 in their only outing of the season, making them the No. 6 seed.

"They all ran pretty well," SOU head coach Grier Gatlin said. "Certainly we can improve on some things; patience is one thing that will help us on Saturday. I think if we can focus on our individual legs of the race and react less to the other teams, we can place pretty high."

College of Idaho, racing in SOU's heat, had the top prelim time of 12:01.75. Carroll (Mont.) won the other heat in 12:01.98.

Today, SOU will be represented by sprinters Matt East and Julius Shellmire in the 60-meter dash prelims and the 200-meter dash prelims.