Senior Abel Hernandez qualified for Nationals in the 5,000 meter run at Dr. Keeler Invite in Naperville, Ill., this weekend
Naperville, Ill. – Big performances by senior Abel Hernandez (Alsip, Ill./Shepard) and freshman Gabriel Esparza (Blue Island, Ill./Eisenhower) were the highpoints for the Saint Xavier University men's track & field team over the weekend as the squad wrapped up its regular season slate at North Central College's Dr. Keeler Invitational at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in Naperville, Ill. Hernandez qualified for the 2017 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships in the 5K (5,000 meters) run with an automatic qualifying time of 14:53.67, which was also a new personal-best time for him in the event. Esparza posted a new personal-best time in the 5K as well at 15:46.84.
"I'm very proud of the year that Gabriel had," said SXU men's track & field coach Kyle Rago. "He came in as a 16:30.3 miler (roughly a 17:05 for the 5K) and dropped his time down considerably to a 15:46 through a lot of hard work and dedication. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Abel can do in the 10,000 meter run at Nationals and this 5K performance shows that he is in great shape heading into that meet."
Hernandez serves as Saint Xavier's lone individual national qualifier for the upcoming NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships, which runs from May 25-27 at the Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium in Gulf Shores, Ala. Hernandez runs the 10K race on the event's opening night (Thursday, May 25) at 8:45 p.m. (central). He finished 11th overall in the same event at last year's national meet with a time of 32:21.62 and 13th overall in the 2015 NAIA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships with a time of 33:36.43. As a freshman, Hernandez finished 16th in the field with a time of 33:47.16.