JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Four Columbia student-athletes advanced to the quarterfinals of their respective events on Thursday, the first day of the 2012 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships East Preliminary Round at North Florida’s Hodges Stadium.

Senior standout Kyle Merber and junior Mark Feigen qualified for Saturday’s men’s 1,500m quarterfinal after placing first and fifth, respectively in Heat 1. Sophomore Harry McFann and first-year Brendon Fish qualified from Friday’s men’s 800m quarterfinal after taking second and fourth, respectively in Heat 2.

Here’s a quick rundown of Thursday’s results:


Brendon Fish (left) and Harry McFann at the NCAA East Prelims (Photo: Andrea Di Trani)

800m Preliminary Round
McFann took second place in Heat 2 with a time of 1:50.14 to earn his spot in Friday’s quarterfinals. The Columbia sophomore was near the back of the pack through the first 200m but moved up to third with a 53.97 split at the 400m mark. The top three runners shuffled spots over the final 200m with McFann crossing the finish line second.

Fish ran a very steady race, hanging in the middle of the pack from start to finish to place fourth in Heat 2 and advance to the quarterfinals with a time of 1:50.22. Fish was in fifth place through the first 400m where his split time was 54.09. He pushed up to fourth at the 600m mark, surging past Cornell’s Will Weinlandt, who faded late in the race.

First-year Connor Claflin clocked in at 1:54.61 to finish eighth in Heat 1. Claflin had a strong start, running third after the first 200m (25.67 split). He remained in contention at the 400m mark where he was fifth, but the two of the runners behind him made their move in the second half of the race to get past him.

1,500m Preliminary Round
Merber won the first 1,500m heat of the day with a time of 4:05.13 to earn a spot in Saturday’s quarterfinal race. Heat 1 was actually the slowest of the four heats. Merber ran a good race, staying at the front of the pack the whole way. He was fourth after the first 700m, but made his move in the second half of the race. The Columbia senior took the lead with a 3:12.47 split time at the 1,100m mark and held on the rest of the way to take first in the heat.

Feigen took fifth place in Heat 1 at 4:05.88 to punch his ticket to the quarterfinal. Feigen was in the middle of the pack for much of the race. At the1,100m mark, he was in seventh place with a 3:12.79 spit time. In the final 400m, Feigen kicked into high gear to pass La Salle’s Nick Crits and William and Mary’s Chris Tyson to earn the fifth and final qualifying spot for the heat.

Senior Adam Behnke concluded his stellar Columbia career on Thursday, finishing 10th in Heat 1 with a time of 4:07.92. Behnke was in contention after the first 700m with a 2:07.51 split time that put him in fifth, but the Lions veteran and two-time NCAA East Prelims qualifier could not hang on.

First-year Daniel Everett actually clocked the fastest time of all five of Columbia’s entries in the 1,500m at 3:49.67 in Heat 2, but finished ninth in that race. Everett was near the front of the pack for the majority of the race. He was fourth after the first 700m and moved up to third at the 1,100m mark where his split time was 2:51.40. Unfortunately, four runners that were behind Everett made their move in the final 400m to get past him.

Sophomore Byron Jones placed 11th in Heat 3 with a time of 3:58.38. Jones was off to a fantastic start, leading the pack after the first 300m (45.40 split time) and remaining in the top three after 700m (1:50.51). Many of the runners in the middle of the pack surged ahead in the second half of the race, passing Jones and some of the other early leaders.

10,000m Prelimiary Round
Junior Mike Murphy finished 22nd in the 48-runner race. He clocked in at 31:02.17. The top 12 advanced to the NCAA finals.

Senior Gary Brownell concluded his outstanding Columbia distance career Thursday night, finishing 41st in the 10k with a time of 32:29.77. Brownell was a member of Columbia's 2009 Ivy League champion cross country team.

In his NCAA East Prelims debut, sophomore Nico Composto took 42nd with a time of 32:55.04.


400m Hurdles Preliminary Round
Senior Kyra Caldwell concluded her outstanding Columbia career on the NCAA stage, where she was making her third career appearance. She placed eighth in Heat 5 and 40th overall with a time of 1:00.99.

800m Preliminary Round
First-year Madeline Rathbun took eighth in Heat 4. Rathbun had a good start to the race. Through the first 200m, she was near the front of the pack in third place with a 29.59 split. She was in fifth with a 1:01.75 split at the 400m mark but the runners up front began to pull away in the second half of the race.

1,500m Preliminary Round
Junior Erin Gillingham took eighth place in Heat 2 with a time of 4:34.00. She was eighth after the first 300m with a 58.25 split time before falling back two spots over the next 400m. Gillingham pushed back to eighth in the final 400m.

10,000m Preliminary Round
Junior Emily Lanois did not run in the 10,000m. She qualified, but decided to forgo competing as she recovers from an injury. Lanois will be back in action next fall for the 2012 cross country season.

With 21 total NCAA East Prelims qualifiers, Columbia has plenty of action remaining over the next two days. Here is a schedule of events for Friday and Saturday:

Friday, May 25        
Time Event Round Columbia Entry Qualifying Mark/Rank
7 p.m. Men's 800m Quarterfinal  Harry McFann, Brendon Fish
8:50 p.m. Men's 3,000m Steeplechase Quarterfinal John Gregorek 8:53.29 (15th)
      Ben Veilleux 9:01.00 (37th)
9:30 p.m. Women's 3,00m Steeplechase Quarterfinal Mallory Anderson 10:28.03 (37th)
Saturday, May 26        
4:30 p.m. Women's Triple Jump 1st Nadia Eke 12.81m (20th)
      Queen Okeke 12.60m (42nd)
6:30 p.m. Men's 1,500m Quarterfinal  Kyle Merber, Mark Feigen
8:45 p.m. Women's 5,000m Quarterfinal Clare Buck 16:37.30 (45th)