Photo by: UC San Diego Athletics
Senior Kelly Strand is one of eight Tritons to qualify for the 2019 NCAA Championships.

Tritons Have Nine Standouts Qualify for NCAA Championships

UC San Diego

INDIANAPOLIS — The University of California San Diego track and field team had nine standout student-athletes qualify for the 2019 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which was announced on Tuesday.

Senior Matt Bowen (long jump/triple jump), senior Natalie Caraway (high jump), junior Claudia Cox (400 hurdles), junior Gabby Eshiet (shot put), senior Esther Nofodji (discus), senior Nicholas Rack (110 hurdles), sophomore Evan Shimasaki (pole vault) and Kelly Strand (400 hurdles) and sophomore Blake Walkowiak (discus) will all compete at the national championships May 23-25 in Kingsville, Texas.

A total of 754 participants from across the country have qualified, including 377 men and 377 women. The Tritons had a total of six student-athletes qualify a year ago in 2018. 

Bowen is the school’s all-time record holder in the long jump and ranks second in the triple jump. A native of Fresno, Calif., Bowen has earned U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-West Region honors in both the long jump and triple jump in fourth-consecutive years.

He finished 12thin the long jump at the 2018 NCAA Championships en route to garnering All-America Second-Team accolades, as well as 13thin the triple jump.

Caraway won the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) championship in both the triple jump and high jump on May 4, and has been an all-conference performer in the high jump each of the last two seasons. The Granite Bay, Calif., native ranks second all-time in program history in the high jump, clearing 5’8.75” on April 6.

Cox burst onto the scene this season as a standout in the 400 hurdles, earning USTFCCCA All-West Region honors, the CCAA championship and was named CCAA Track Runner of the Week five times this season. A native of Greenville, N.C., Cox’s time of 59.18 earlier this season in the 400 hurdles ranks second all-time in school history, as she was also a member of the All-CCAA 4x400 relay team.

Eshiet has made a big impact in her first season with the Tritons, and is currently second all-time in the shot put for the program with a toss of 48'1.25". The Chino, Calif., native received USTFCCCA All-West Region honors in both the hammer and shot put.

Nofodji currently stands seconds second all-time in program history in the shot put, and was named CCAA Field Athlete of the Week after her toss of 160’11” at the California Collegiate Open on March 30.

Rack is returning to the NCAA Championships to compete in the 110 hurdles for the second-consecutive season, after finishing fourth overall en route to All-America First-Team honors at the at the 2018 national meet. The Murrieta, Calif., native is the school record holder in the event (14.00), and has earned All-West Region honors in three-straight years.

Shimasaki is an all-region and All-CCAA performer in the pole vault, and currently stands fourth overall in program history after clearing 16’4.75” earlier this season.

Strand has stayed right with Cox throughout the season in the 400 hurdles, and set the program’s fourth-best time overall at 59.98 earlier in the year. Strand received all-region honors in the 400 hurdles and was an All-CCAA honoree in the 4x400 relay.

Walkowiak was a late addition for the Tritons, qualifying as an alternate in the discus. The sophomore is an all-west region performer in the event, highlighted by a first-place performance at Arizona State's Sun Angel Classic with an NCAA pro-qualifying toss of 171'6" (52.27).

NCAA Championship Qualifiers

Men:
Matt Bowen (long jump/triple jump)
Nicholas Rack (110 hurdles)
Evan Shimasaki (pole vault)
Blake Walkowiak (discus)

Women:
Claudia Cox (400 hurdles)
Natalie Caraway (high jump)
Gabby Eshiet (shot put)
Esther Nofodji (discus)
Kelly Strand (400 hurdles)

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country.  The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference.  UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent.  A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Post Graduate Scholarships.  In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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