Trio of McNeese State tracksters head to Nationals

LAKE CHARLES - McNeese State's Ben Chretien, David Rooney and Ashlee Smith begin competition in the NCAA championship track and field meet on Thursday in Des Moines, IA.

Smith, the Southland Conference discus champion, will kick things off for McNeese by throwing on Wednesday.  The women's trials and finals for the discus will begin at 5:30 p.m.

On Thursday at 5:30 p.m., Chretien, the SLC javelin champion, will perform while on Friday at 7:10 p.m. Rooney, the league 5,000 meter champ, will run in that event.

This is the first time in many years for McNeese to have as many as three athletes in the NCAAs and the number is the most for any school in the SLC.  UTSA had three athletes qualify for the championship also while Lamar and Sam Houston State qualified in two events and Texas State, Southeastern Louisiana, UTA and TAM-Corpus in one each.

Chretien will be making his second appearance as two years ago he qualified for the national championship meet but did not advance to the finals.

Rooney has competed in the NCAA indoor national championship meet and in the national cross country meet.

Smith, a junior from Arlington, TX, will go into the discus event with a school record 169-8 toss which she produced during the NCAA regional's.  She scored 19 points at the conference outdoor meet recently.

TAM-Corpus Christi long jumper Kassandrea Son is the only other SLC athlete to qualify in the women's events.

A graduate student from Elton, Chretien throw the javelin a career best 234-11 this season and Rooney, a senior from Dublin, Ireland, has run a school record 13:53.04 in the 5,000 meters (victory in the Mt. SAC relays).

All three McNeese athletes believe that they have a chance of finishing at least among the top 10 in their event, thus earning all-American honors.

Chretien said that the 250 mark is not out of the question for him while Rooney would like to run at least 13:20 and Smith wants another personal best.

The last McNeese athlete to earn all-American honors at the NCAA championship was javelin thrower Sam Vidrine who placed sixth in the event at the 2010 meet.