When they crossed the finish line, Colorado’s men’s 4×400 relay team narrowly missed the cut for the NCAA championships.
When the dust settled a little later, the Buffaloes were in after all.
A late scoring change spurred by a protest Friday night at the NCAA West Preliminaries in Fayetteville, Ark., moved the Buffs’ team of Tyler Williams, Ian Gilmore, Garrett Nelson and Aaron McCoy into the national championships in two weeks.
Despite a time of 3 minutes, 5.5 seconds that marked the second-best time in CU history, the Buffs originally narrowly missed the finals field, finishing 13th overall. However, a protest ultimately disqualified the teams from UCLA and BYU, moving the Buffs into third in their heat to gain an automatic bid into the championships.
It is the first CU men’s relay team to earn a championship berth since the 4×100 team in 2010. The relay team also allowed the Buffs to avoid having no men’s qualifiers for the NCAA finals since 1991.
While the Buffs celebrated that surprising late turn of events, it was a rough ending for decorated sixth-year senior Eduardo Herrera.
Herrera and teammate Andrew Kent fell just short of advancing to the NCAA finals, finishing just behind the cut line in the 5,000 meter run.
With the top five finishers in each of two heats, plus the next two best times, earning spots in the NCAA finals, Kent placed sixth in the opening heat (14th overall) with a time of 13 minutes, 39.2 seconds, finishing just .19 of a second behind the fifth-place spot that would have secured an automatic bid in the next round.
Herrera — owner of the CU records in the indoor mile, indoor 3K, and outdoor 1,500 — finished just on Kent’s heels in 13:39.49. That mark was just .36 behind the fifth-place spot in the opening heat, which was secured with a personal-best mark from Arizona State’s Vincent Mauri (13:39.13).
Both CU runners finished nearly five seconds behind the mark for the final at-large spot, which was nabbed by Iowa State’s Ryan Ford (13:34.79, also a personal best). CU’s Charlie Sweeney placed 28th (13:55.27).
Freshman Noah Bouchard finished 36th in the high jump (2.05 meters) but fell short of qualifying for the championships. The individual season ended in the quarterfinals for Williams, who placed 20th in the 400 (46.13), as well as McCoy, who finished 16th in the 400 hurdles (51.26).
The CU women will have a busy day in the West Preliminary’s final day on Saturday. Highlighting the slate will be a trio of Buffs looking to advance to the NCAA championships in events in which they expect to compete for the title, with Micaela DeGenero taking off in the 1,500 at 4:15 p.m. (alongside Rachel McArthur), Madie Boreman competing in the steeplechase at 4:40 p.m. MT, and Abby Nichols leading the charge in the 5K at 7:10 p.m. MT. Emily Covert and India Johnson also are expected to compete in the 5K even after earning NCAA championship berths in the 10K on Thursday.
In other action on Saturday, Mead’s Abbey Glynn competes in the quarterfinal of the 400 hurdles at 6:25 p.m. MT. Avery McMullen will compete in the 100 hurdles and the Buffs will have two entrants, Kylie Harr and Allie Routledge, competing in the high jump.
DeGenero on Friday was named as a first team of the CoSIDA Academic All-District Seven selection.