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SOU will be busy at nationals

GULF SHORES, Ala. — The Southern Oregon University track and field team will be busier than usual at the 66th annual NAIA Outdoor Championships, which run today through Saturday and will be held at Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium for the fourth year in a row.

After bringing eight men's and three women's entries last year, the Raiders have 10 men's and eight women's entries in the field, covering a total of 16 events. Among those are 12 top-10 seeds and four returning All-Americans.

In recent years, the Raider men and women have churned out individual national champions like never before. The SOU men have won outdoor titles three years in a row — Eric Avila in 2014 (1,500 meters), Dylan Alexander in 2015 (5K) and Jared Hixon in 2016 (1,500) — after going the previous five years without one and are up to 13 total. The women have done the same – Stephanie Techler in 2014 (pole vault), Amelia Maguin in 2015 (400 hurdles) and Jessa Perkinson in 2016 (10K) — to end what had been an 18-year dry spell and are up to eight total titles. Before this stretch, SOU had claimed men's and women's title in the same year just once (1988).

The Raider men finished 11th in the 2016 team standings with 26 points and were 12th the year before. The team's best finish has been sixth, on three occasions but most recently in 2012. The women, who have produced 11 All-America performances the last six years after a seven-year stretch in which they had just one, got all 16 of their points last season from Perkinson (a team record) to tie for 20th in the standings.

Below is an event-by-event look at SOU's entries:

MEN'S EVENTS

DECATHLON

8 a.m. Thursday: 100m, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400m

8 a.m. Friday: 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, 1,500m

SOU Entry (16 total): Joseph Dotson, 6,695 (3rd)

Of Note: A year ago, Dotson became the fourth NAIA freshman to place in the top five in the decathlon in 10 years, and SOU's first freshman All-American in any discipline since 2005 by taking fifth with 6,484 points. As the No. 3 seed, he'll go for SOU's top multi-events finish since Ross Kennedy was the national runner-up in 1996 and '97. Dotson is a month removed from placing second in the Cascade Conference with a new personal best.

100 METERS

Trials: 1:10 p.m. Friday

Final: 2 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entries (42 total): Matt East, 10.42 (9th); Dwight Shaw, 10.55 (17th)

Of Note: SOU will be represented in the 100 for the first time since 2009, when Antwun Baker became the Raiders' first All-American in the sprint with a sixth-place finish. East – who won the 200 and 400 at the CCC Championships – earlier this season established a new conference record (10.42), and two weeks ago Shaw established a new CCC Championships record (10.55) for an upset win.

5,000 METERS

Trials: 5 p.m. Friday

Final: 3:55 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entry (23 total): Connor Cushman, 14:53.81 (14th)

Of Note: After leading the SOU cross country team to a national title this fall with a team-best finish of 16th, Cushman is slated to compete at the NAIA Outdoor Championships for the first time in his four-year Raider career. His personal best in the 5K was recorded just four weeks ago at the Oregon State High Performance Meet, and he placed eighth at the CCC Championships. SOU had never produced an All-American in the 5K until Dylan Alexander won it in 2015 and was third last year.

10,000 METERS

Final: 6:45 p.m. Thursday

SOU Entry (8 total): Connor Cushman, 31:01.84 (7th)

Of Note: With only eight individuals entered to race, all Cushman needs to do is finish to become an All-American again and add to SOU's score. Of course, his expectations should be a little loftier: He's only run the 10K once over the last two years, and his seed time is only 32 seconds slower than the No. 3 seed's. Ryan Sorenson (8th, 2012) and Eric Ghelfi (8th, 2014; 7th, 2015) are SOU's previous top-eight finishers in the race.

3K STEEPLECHASE

Trials: 5:10 p.m. Thursday

Final: 12:20 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entry (17 total): Kevin Poteracke, 9:13.98 (6th)

Of Note: Poteracke is one of five individuals from the CCC who qualified for the race, and two weeks ago he was the runner-up at the conference championship meet. He placed eighth in the NAIA last year, and this year he trimmed 10 seconds off his PR. SOU has produced seven All-America performances since 2007 in the steeple.

4x100-METER RELAY

Trials: 1 p.m. Thursday

Final: 12:50 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entries (28 total): Dwight Shaw, Mat East, Jeremiah Emershy, Cameron Bremner, 40.96 (5th)

Of Note: As the No. 11 seed last year, SOU snuck into fourth place to snag All-America honors for the first time in 4x100. That team consisted of all freshmen and sophomores. This team, which includes returner Cameron Bremner, owns a No. 5 seed with a school and conference record time of 40.96 (last year's seed time was 41.31). Two weeks ago, the Raiders captured their seventh 4x100 CCC title in eight years.

4x400-METER RELAY

Trials: 6:15 p.m. Friday

Final: 4:25 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entries (16 total): Matt East, Gary Fanelli, Cameron Bremner, Cedric Quartey, 3:15.84 (8th)

Of Note: Coming off their first 4x400 conference win since 2005, the Raiders are in position to score more points at the national meet. At the CCC Championships, they cut more than a second off their previous best time of 3:17.10. Since debuting this season with a time of 3:28.28, SOU's 4x400 has improved its time in six consecutive races.

LONG JUMP

Final: 11 a.m. Friday

SOU Entry (27 total): Zach Beltz, 7.37m (24-2 ¼) (7th)

Of Note: Beltz will be making his second consecutive trip to the national meet, having placed 22nd as a freshman last year with a mark of 22-1 ½. He's now the No. 7 seed and tallied marks better than 23-10 on five occasions this season, including two weeks ago when he matched a PR to win his second straight CCC title. SOU has never produced a long jump All-American.

TRIPLE JUMP

Final: 11:30 a.m. Saturday

SOU Entry (26 total): Zach Beltz, 14.38m (47-2 ¼) (20th)

Of Note: Beltz was the first-ever individual to win CCC titles in the long jump and triple jump at the same meet and will enter as the No. 20 seed after establishing his PR on April 15 at the Raider Invitational. SOU's last triple jump All-American was Nick Hanson, who placed eighth in 2004 and sixth in '05.

WOMEN'S EVENTS

100 METERS

Trials: 12:50 p.m. Friday

Final: 1:50 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entry (38 total): Rakayla Tyler, 11.87 (10th)

Of Note: Coming off a track athlete-of-the-meet display at the CCC Championships – where she won titles in the 100 and 200, placed third in the 400, and contributed to titles in both relays – Tyler will take the No. 10 seed to the national meet and attempt to become SOU's first-ever All-American in the 100. Her best of 11.87 crushed the old SOU record of 12.17 and was also a conference meet record.

200 METERS

Trials: 2:50 p.m. Thursday

Final: 3:10 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entry (29 total): Arianna Daniel, 25.00 (28th)

Of Note: Daniel will make her first appearance at the NAIA Championships as a freshman after qualifying with a new best of 25.00 in a runner-up effort at the conference meet. She'll be the No. 28 seed in an event in which SOU has never produced an All-American.

800 METERS

Trials: 12 p.m. Friday

Final: 2:50 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entry (28 total): Aspen Abbott, 2:15.01 (22nd)

Of Note: Coming off a CCC title run of 2:15.25, Abbott is just four weeks removed from her new best, which also broke her own school record. Over the last two months, she's won three 800 races – not including her PR run. SOU has never had a men's or women's All-American in the 800.

1,500 METERS

Trials: 1:20 p.m. Thursday

Final: 1 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entry (12 total): Jessa Perkinson, 4:30.11 (5th)

Of Note: After winning the 10K and placing third in the 5K last year, Perkinson is swapping the 1,500 for the 10K – another event in which the Raiders have never produced an All-American. She won the conference title and produced her PR four weeks ago at the OSU High Performance Meet. She'll be the No. 5 seed in a field that includes the defending champ, Indiana Wesleyan's Sarah Moore, as the No. 2 seed.

5,000 METERS

Trials: 4:10 p.m. Friday

Final: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entries (19 total): Kayle Blackmore, 17:20.66 (7th); Jessa Perkinson, 16:37.47 (1st)

Of Note: Perkinson, the seven-time NAIA All-American, placed third last year behind two seniors and now has the No. 1 seed by a margin of 10.5 seconds after breaking her own school record at the CCC Championships by nearly nine seconds. She'll go for the SOU's fourth women's title in four years and will be joined by fellow All-American Kayle Blackmore, appearing individually at the national outdoor meet for the first time. Only once before has SOU produced two All-Americans in the same event – the 1994 heptathlon (Jill Carrier and Jennifer Harman).

4x100-METER RELAY

Trials: 12:30 p.m. Thursday

Final: 12:40 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entries (21 total): Rakayla Tyler, Arianna Daniel, Margot Hamman, Savannah Greenwade, 47.07 (8th)

Of Note: For the first time since 2012, the Raider women are bringing a 4x100 team to the national meet after theirs broke school and CCC Championship meet records with a time of 47.07 two weeks ago; before this year, the SOU record was 48.02. It was the team's first 4x100 conference title since 2006, and it earned them the No. 8 seed. The Raiders previously placed sixth at the 2002 national meet with a time of 49.03.

4x400-METER RELAY

Trials: 5:45 p.m. Friday

Final: 4:15 p.m. Saturday

SOU Entries (17 total): Rakayla Tyler, Aspen Abbott, Savannah Greenwade, Arianna Daniel, 3:54.34 (12th)

Of Note: The Raiders also won their first 4x400 conference title since 2006 and have logged each of their three fastest performances in their last three tries. The last time they ran the 4x400 at the national meet was 2004, when they failed to make the final, and they've never had an All-America showing in the race.