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CHICAGO (CBS) — Five DePaul track and field athletes are heading to Fayetteville, Arkansas to compete in the NCAA regionals this week, with the hopes of earning a bid to next week’s nationals.
CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek caught up with several of the stars before they jetted out of town.
“It’s like, I’m here. Like, I’m actually here. I worked my butt off to get here.”
Junior sprinter Jarel Terry soaking in the moment as he prepares for his first trip to the NCAA outdoor regionals. That after Terry gave DePaul its track and field moment of the year at the Big East Championship earlier this month.
“I feel like I was applying everything that I learned in practice. He was trying to get in front of me and I let him pass me, because I ran my own race for the first 250 meters,” Terry said. “After that 250, I compete. I knew what I was doing. I feel like he kind of got excited and I just blew by him, like I’m sorry, this is mine.”
Terry won the 400m in dramatic fashion, but he says there’s no recreating that moment at regionals.
“What I did at the finals, if I do that at regionals, I’m not going to see that national stage. I can’t do what I’d done. So I definitely need to get out, stay focused on my own race,” Terry said.
Fifth-year senior Kiersten Walker is looking to do the same as she makes her third trip to regionals.
“In this season, I haven’t touched my fastest times so it’s been a little up and down. A lot of emotions,” Walker said.
But Walker said she is just full of joy for the opportunity to compete and don the Blue Demon jersey once more.
“You have to remain focused and just remember that you’re in this race, you’re running with nine other people but it doesn’t matter because you’re running against the clock,” Walker said.
And if anyone knows how to finish strong, it’s longtime track and field coach Dave Dopek, who holds a special place in DePaul history.
“I wasn’t expecting to go and win a championship. It was my first nationals. It’s just a matter of going out there, running fast and performing,” Dopek said.
Coach Dopek remains the only DePaul track and field athlete to win nationals, which he did in the 200m in1995.
“I’d love to see the athletes have that experience. All American experience, the experience of representing your city, your university,” Dopek said. “I’d love to have company. I’d love to be the coach that enables me to have that company.”
But first, Coach Dopek needs all five of his qualifiers to compete.