CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle ENMU senior Zach Gerleve has been close to qualifying for NCAA Division II national track and field meet in each of his first three years, but finally made it this season.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Zach Gerleve has always been close to earning a berth in the NCAA Division II national outdoor track and field championships.
In each of his four years at Eastern New Mexico University, the senior from Truth or Consequences has reached the “provisional” qualifying distance in javelin, meaning he’s thrown far enough to perhaps be invited at the NCAA’s discretion.
This time, he got the call — as did junior triple-jumper Kyle Harris. They are the school’s first NCAA qualifiers in the sport, and compete today at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C.
Gerleve is scheduled to throw at 9:30 a.m., while Harris’ event is set for 3:30 p.m. (MDT).
“Zach’s been our only provisional qualifier (previously),” ENMU track coach Eric Boll said. “This year we qualified five provisionals, and two of them made it.
“I just hope it’s going to continue to grow. Any time you have some national exposure, it attracts attention from better (potential) athletes.”
Gerleve and Harris, a transfer from New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell from Altamonte Springs, Fla., play running backs on the football team.
Gerleve, who has one semester of eligibility remaining in football, posted a personal-best throw of 200 feet in the New Mexico State Spring Classic, and is seeded 17th out of 18 entrants.
Only one thrower made the automatic qualifying distance of 218 feet.
“I always missed (qualifying) by an inch or two,” Gerleve said. “My first year they took 22 (to nationals), and another year they took 16.”
He knows his work is cut out.
“But anything can happen in the javelin,” said Gerleve, who thinks he’s capable of throwing 210. “I’ve got to get one good one. There’s a lot of people right around 200 to 205. I think I can make the finals (top eight), for sure.”
Harris has been nursing an ankle injury, and was doing most of his work on a stationary bike earlier in the week. Despite that, Boll is confident he’ll be ready to go.
“It does (serve as an obstacle),” Boll said of the injury, “but Kyle’s one of those kids that’s so athletic.
“I’m more concerned about him being healthy than (not) practicing.”
Harris’ season-best outing came in the David Noble Relays at Angelo State, when he jumped 49 feet, 4 inches. He is seeded 14th out of 18 jumpers.
“I think I’ll be able to make the finals, at least,” Harris said. “I’ve got to go at least 50 feet; if I do that, I’ll make it.”
He said before this year he hadn’t triple-jumped since high school.
“I didn’t think I could (make nationals). But I’d say it’s like riding a bike — you don’t forget how to do it. I just had to pick up my workout a little bit.”