Northern Illinois senior distance runner Hope Schmelzle advanced to the finals in the 3,000-meter steeplechase after winning her heat at the preliminaries of the NCAA Championships on Thursday night in Eugene, Oregon.
Schmelzle finished with a time of 9 minutes, 50.51 seconds to move on as one of the 12 runners to compete in the finals Saturday.
The top five finishers from each of the two heats automatically qualified, with the next two fastest times also moving on. Schmelzle was in fourth place down the home stretch before a final push gave her the narrow win in her heat.
She posted the fastest time in the 24-runner field for the prelims and was only the third Huskie to make the NCAA Championships and the first to do so in a mid-distance race. Schmelzle already is guaranteed to be the highest finishing Huskie in school history, with Claudette Day taking 21st in the 100 hurdles in 2014 being the previous best.
The finals for the women’s 3,000 steeplechase is scheduled for 5:54 p.m. Saturday.