The John Brown University track and field program has qualified three entries in three events in the 2023 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the NAIA National Office announced Friday morning, May 19.
Senior Will Vail will make his third consecutive appearance at the national championships, the 4x800-meter relay team will head to its second championships of the year and junior Jean-Benoit Merte will compete in his first-career championships week.
After eight consecutive seasons in Gulf Shores, Ala., the 2023 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field Championships will be held at the Track & Field Complex from Wednesday through Friday (May 24-26) on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Ind.
Vail enters the long jump event via an NAIA A standard jump, 7.38 meters, which not only won the three-time qualifier a gold medal at the Sooner Athletic Conference Championships, but broke his own previous program record of 7.28 meters (wind-aided). That jump seeded him 11th in the field of 27 competitors. The long jump event is scheduled for May 25 at 1:30 p.m.
Already having competed at the 2023 NAIA Indoor Track & Field National Championships, the 4x800 team of sophomore Drew Birnbaum, sophomore Drew Janzen, freshman Matthew Cook and senior Jadin Whiting return for the outdoor championships by locking in an NAIA B standard time of 7:45.78 at the Sooner Athletic Conference Championships. The squad took second place at that event and easily shattered the previous program record, set in 2021, by a shocking 40 seconds. The 800 meter relay preliminaries are scheduled for May 24 at 5:50 p.m., with the finals taking place a day later at 5:30 p.m.
Merte and sophomore Josiah Petak will serve as 800 meter relay alternates.
Finally, Merte will compete in the 3,000 meter steeplechase after besting the NAIA B standard time of 9:32 by two seconds at the SAC Championships, breaking his own program record. The reigning SAC champion is seeded 27th in the field and will take on the field of 30 on May 24 at 6:55 p.m. in the preliminaries. The finals are slated for May 26 at 12:20 p.m.