Clarksville, TN – As expected, a pair of Austin Peay State University track and field standouts have qualified for the 2021 NCAA East Preliminary, hosted by North Florida and the Jacksonville Sports Council in Jacksonville, May 26th-29th.
Ohio Valley Conference pole vault champion Karlijn Schouten will become the fourth pole vaulter in Austin Peay State University history to make an appearance at the regional level, while standout sprinter Kenisha Phillips, who qualified in both the 200 and 400-meter events, will focus just on the 400 in her first preliminary outing, becoming the first regional qualifier in the event for Austin Peay State University since the immortal Breigh Jones in 2015.
With the 2020 outdoor season wiped out by the pandemic, both Phillips and Schouten are classified as freshmen for their first regional appearance—they are believed to be the first freshman Austin Peay teammates to gain regional qualification in the same season.
The trio also is responsible for all three OVC Track and Field Athlete of the Week honors this season—Phillips won following her performance at the Margaret Simmons Invitational, and the duo swept the track and field honors after their performance at the Kentucky Open.
Among league competitors, Schouten and Phillips are the only OVC student-athletes to earn regional qualifiers in their respective events.
Schouten enters the meet ranked 29th in the region overall and eighth among freshman competitors. In six events this spring, she finished with four wins and a runner-up honor, breaking the four-meter mark on three occasions.
She opened her season with a trio of wins at the Bill Cornell Invite, the Margaret Simmons Invitational, and the Hilltopper Relays, hitting 4.01 meters at the Murray State-hosted Simmons Invite.
Her official qualifying mark came in the form of a 4.12-meter runner-up showing at the Kentucky Open, where she faced a field of what would ultimately become four regional competitors. For her latest act, she easily took the crown at the OVC Championships and took a run at the school record in the process, ultimately settling for the OVC Outdoor Meet record with a 4.06-meter mark.
Phillips proved able to do more or less as she pleased on the track this season. The OVC Freshman of the Year led the league in both the 200 and 400 and was a podium contender for the 100 despite not running the event over the season’s final month. In her first outdoor campaign, she was victorious six times and never finished lower than eighth in any appearance across any event—the 100, 200, 400, and 4×400-meter relays included. She qualified as 30th overall and at No. 10 among freshmen in the 400-meter dash.
She started the season with wins in the 400 (Bill Cornell Invitational) and 200 (Margaret Simmons Invitational) before “settling” for a pair of runner-ups in the 100 and 200 at Western Kentucky. She won the 200 and was runner-up in the 100 at the Vanderbilt Black and Gold, then turned around and posted what would be her qualifying mark in the 400 at the Kentucky Open with a 53.38 mark, placing fifth overall alongside pros and second among collegiate competitors; she’ll be one of three runners just from that meet to appear at the regional level this season.
She capped her season with a pair of gold medals in the 200 and 400 at the OVC Outdoor Championships, adding silver with a strong leg in the 4×400-meter dash as well. At the conclusion of the event, she was named OVC Freshman of the Year, marking her as the third straight Gov to earn OVC Outdoor Freshman of the Year honors.
Both Phillips and Schouten are scheduled to begin their march toward the NCAA Championships on May 27th, Schouten at 2:00pm CT, and Phillips at 6:25pm CT. If Schouten advances out of the first round, she’s off to Oregon; Phillips also will need to post a qualifying mark in Saturday’s quarterfinal round, which takes place at 6:55pm CT.
The top-12 in each event in both the East and West Preliminaries will advance to the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Eugene, Oregon, June 9th-12th.