Sparks is 4th in Hurdles, Loftus Takes 7th in Steeplechase, at Gregory Invitational

Jewell Sparks (Jr., San Francisco, CA/Lick Wilmerding HS)
Jewell Sparks (Jr., San Francisco, CA/Lick Wilmerding HS)

NAPERVILLE, Ill. -- Jewell Sparks (Jr., San Francisco, CA/Lick Wilmerding HS) of Willamette University placed fourth in the women's 400-meter hurdles, and Patrick Loftus (Jr., Santa Rosa, CA/Sonoma Academy) finished seventh for the Bearcats in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase, during the Gregory Invitational at North Central College on Thursday, May 18.

Sparks earned fourth out of 13 competitors in the 400-meter hurdles with a solid time of 1:02.87. The winner of the event was Rebecca Ridderhoff from Washington University (Mo.) in 1:00.67.

Ridderhoff entered the race ranked first in NCAA Division III this season with a time of 59.38 seconds at the Saint Louis University Invitational on April 7. At the end of the day, Riddderhoff was #2, as Asha Flowers from University of Dubuque (Iowa) registered a time of 58.94 seconds at the Augustana Midwest Twilight Final Qualifier on Thursday.

The top time achieved by Sparks this season in the 400-meter hurdles was 1:02.16 at the Portland Twilight on May 12. She ranks second on Willamette's all-time list and is tied with one runner for 17th on this year's NCAA Division III performance list.

Sparks should qualify for the 2017 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships. The top 20 athletes in each men's event and the top 22 athletes in each women's event will qualify. Thursday was the final day to achieve and report any new marks. Official selections will be announced on Saturday, May 20 with the championships set for May 25-27 in Geneva, Ohio.

Patrick Loftus (Jr., Santa Rosa, CA/Sonoma Academy) Loftus was seventh out of 36 runners in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:29.16. Also participating in the men's steeplechase for Willamette were Keith Carlson (So., Bainbridge Island, WA//Bainbridge HS) and Michael Montague (Fr., San Diego, CA/Canyon Crest Academy). Carlson registered a time of 10:10.82, while Montague completed the race in 10:15.82.

This season, Loftus has raced competitively in the steeplechase six times and has finished all six races in under 9:30. His season best of 9:20.71 at the Oregon State University High Performance Meet on April 28 is tied for 36th on the NCAA Division III performance list.

Hannah Swanson (Jr., Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS) and Olivia Mancl (Sr., Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS) competed in the women's 1,500-meter run. Swanson reached the finish line the in 4:47.28 to place ninth out of 31 runners. Mancl completed the race in 5:09.06. Swanson is ranked 45th on the NCAA performance list with a time of 4:37.33 at the OSU High Performance Meet.