Keiron Stewart had been waiting for this moment since March 29.
He wasn’t going to let an unexpected three more hours deter him.
Texas’ senior 110-meter high hurdler hadn’t raced since injuring his left hamstring over the seventh hurdle at the Texas Relays in his season debut. He finally made his return Friday night, but first had to wait out a three-hour weather delay that bedeviled the NCAA West preliminary rounds most of the day with driving rain and lightning.
The weather didn’t slow the Jamaican, but his calves almost did. They both cramped up as he cleared the second of the 10 hurdles, but he gutted it out and advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals with a second-place time of 14.02 seconds in his heat. It was well off the 13.51 he managed at the Relays despite his injury, but it was enough to get him to the next round with the eighth-fastest time.
“Both calves cramped, but I still managed to finish and advance,” Stewart said. “I wasn’t scared. You just have to fight through it. It’s only 110 (meters) so it’s not that long to have to hold on for.”
Since Stewart’s senior season now consists of only two races, he’s trying to savor his final moments on the track that has seen him become the Texas school record holder in the event.
“I was thinking tonight that this is one of the last hoorahs I have here,” he said. “You just have to take every moment and cherish it.”
Most of the moments Friday were water-logged.
Friday’s rain wasn’t as torrential as the storm that played havoc with the 2004 NCAA championships in Austin, which virtually wiped out the opening night of competition and forced massive re-scheduling. But it was enough to create a bit of chaos.
There were two delays caused by rain and, more importantly, lighting. The first came at 1:45 p.m. when the only events underway were the women’s pole vault and discus throw.
Shortly thereafter, the skies darkened, then opened. The rain fell so hard that at times it was difficult to see across the field to the opposite grandstands.
Around 5 p.m., officials announced they planned to resume competition at 6:30. But about 45 minutes later, the rains — and more importantly the lightning, which requires an automatic 30-minute postponement — came again.
At 5:50 p.m., the same message as earlier appeared on the scoreboard and the same announcement was issued to evacuate. Finally, around 7 p.m., it was announced that all systems were go for an 8 p.m. launch of running events.
“It was very hard to get re-focused, warm up, stop and sit, warm up, stop and sit,” said Longhorn sophomore hurdler Morgan Snow, who overcame more than the delay to advance to today’s quarters with 13.63 clocking.
“Bronchitis and asthma mixed together, that’s really tough,” she said between coughs. “We practice running in any type of weather, so I came out and just ran.”
With the three women’s and three men’s heats in the 3,000-meter steeplechase still to be run as Friday night turned into Saturday morning, the Longhorns had qualified 11 more athletes during the long day — seven women, four men — to the June 5-8 NCAA national semifinals in Eugene, Ore.
After qualifying three in the discus on Thursday, the UT men qualified three more Friday in the shot put. Only one qualified in both — Ryan Crouser, the national leader who won the shot Friday with a 62-11¼. Also advancing in the shot are Hayden Bailllio (a season-best 62-0¼) and Will Spence (59-9½).
Other UT man to qualify was freshman Zack Bildenback in the 400 (46.10). Texas had three entries in the steeplechase — Austin Blessing, Trevor Van Ackeren and Austin Roth.
The women qualifiers included pole vaulters Kaitlin Petrillose and Natasha Masterson (both clearing 13-5¾). Also in the field, Shanay Briscoe moved ahead to Eugene in the high jump with a 5-8¾ clearance.
On the track, freshman Courtney Okolo recorded her second personal best in as many nights, winning her 400 heat in 52.04 to place third overall. Junior Briana Nelson was second in her 400 heat with a 52.69, good for sixth overall. Also moving on to Eugene was Danielle Dowie, who won her 400 intermediate hurdles heat in 56.68. Chalonda Goodman advanced in the 100 after placing seventh overall (11.68).
Okolo, who ran a then-best 52.13 in Thursday’s first round, said he is rapidly gaining more confidence.
“Coach (Rose) Brimmer keeps telling us it’s peak season,” Okolo said. “I guess she’s right.”
Freshman Zack Bilderback posted a 46.10 to finish third in his heat and seventh overall to advance.