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Bowling Green sends two athletes to NCAA track & field championships

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BOWLING GREEN – Two members of the Bowling Green State University track and field team, shot putter Aliyah Gustafson and distance runner Rachel Walny, will compete in the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships hosted by the University of Oregon.

The University of Toledo’s Janelle Noe — a Mid-American Conference champion — will run in the 1,500-meter prelims Thursday, too. Noe, a senior, is scheduled to run at 7:16 p.m. local time Thursday. Her time at regionals last week that qualified her for the meet was 4:16.34, a new personal best. There are two heats of 12; the top five from each heat and two next best times move on.

Gustafson, a redshirt senior, will compete in the shot put at 9:10 p.m. local time on Thursday, while Walny will run in the 10,000 meters at Hayward Field on 9:38 p.m. that night.

A native of Iowa City, Iowa, Gustafson has the sixth-best mark among the 24 competitors in the shot put competition with a throw of 17.52 meters (57 feet, 5¾ inches).

While Gustafson is not one of the six competitors in this year’s meet who also took part in last year’s event, she did qualify for the nationals in 2016 and placed 24th. She also is one of 11 who also took part in the NCAA Indoor Championships earlier this year and finished tenth.

"I'm confident going on with this being my third national championship,” Gustafson said in a release. “I feel good about where I'm at both physically and mentally.

“I'm going to use my previous experiences to help me achieve my goals."

Walny, a redshirt junior from Clinton Township, Mich., has a best time in the 10K of 33:48.22, which ranks 14th among the runners in this event. The Chippewa Valley High School graduate is one of eight runners who also raced in the 10,000 meters in last year’s NCAA Championships, where she took 18th with a 34:00.61 clocking, earning All-American honorable mention.

Among those running against Walny are four of the top five runners from last year’s championship, including the top three finishers.

"Being here last year gives me confidence going into the race,” Walny said. “I've experienced this level of competition before and I know how to handle it.

My goal is to just stay calm, go into it with no expectations, see how the race plays out, and take it from there."

This marks the sixth consecutive year Bowling Green has had a competitor in the NCAA outdoor championships. But it marks the first time since 1998 that the Falcons have had more than one competitor at the meet.

Contact John Wagner at jwagner@theblade.com419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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