Quinn denied NCAA berth

Senior 5,000-meter runner Tara Quinn’s hopes of being one of the 16 competitors in today’s NCAA championship meet faded quickly last weekend.

Quinn fell from 14th to 20th over three days as the surprising results from last-chance qualification meets rolled in.

“We kind of went into last weekend thinking we were going to be safe. It was more or less a bit of a shock,” Quinn said. “I kind of had my fingers crossed and was hoping.”

Quinn said while she was disappointed she won’t be competing at the national level, she has learned a valuable lesson from the experience.

“It was good, too, in a sense ,because it made us realize we can’t always trust our instincts,” she said. “It was disappointing, but it kind of made me think there was more work to be done.”

USF track and field coach Greg Thiel said he was disappointed for Quinn and isn’t sure last-chance meets are a good idea for athletes in distance events.

“(Last-chance meets) a week before nationals, it’s tough to come back and run that time a week later,” Thiel said. “I’ve got mixed feelings about last-chance meets. It may get them in, but what are they going to do when they’re there?”

Thiel said a possible solution to the problem may be to put into effect an early cut-off date for qualification. He said he feels Quinn would have had a better chance to run well at nationals than one of the athletes who took her place last weekend.

“I think that Tara rested would obviously run better than someone who has run hard three weeks in a row,” he said. “There’s a lot of suspect things (at last-chance meets), just things you question. It’s kind of like what do you need to get, and home cooking maybe.”

Thiel puts Quinn’s performance into perspective, in that she was 20th in the nation out of nearly 300 schools that compete in indoor track and field. He said she had a great year.

“We teach our kids to stand up and do your part, and she sure did,” he said.

“It’s tough, (but) she ran phenomenal.”

Quinn said she will now turn her attention to the outdoor season. Quinn will compete in the 10,000-meter run, an event that she ran in last year’s NCAA outdoor meet. She said she prefers the 10,000 meters and hopes to make the national outdoor championships again and possibly earn All-American status.

Quinn said despite the disappointing finish to the indoor season, she is still proud of her accomplishments and ready to move forward.

“I felt like (the season) went really well. I felt my times had improved from the previous indoor season,” she said. “My goal was to improve upon my season last year and come out of indoors a little stronger than the year before.”