It’s one thing for you to be the lone representative for your school at the NCAA championships. It is quite another to be your conference’s only entry, entirely. Such is the task ahead for South Dakota pole vault star Bethany Buell.

South Dakota
South Dakota's Bethany Buell

Buell is carrying the hopes of the Coyotes and the Great West Conference into the national championships next week in Des Moines, Iowa. She earned her berth after she finished in a tie for 10th in the event at the NCAA West Preliminaries last week in Eugene, Ore. She is making history by representing South Dakota in its first year of postseason eligibility.

The St. Louis native finished with a 13-3 1/2 effort in Eugene that solidified her place in the national championships.

The conditions were less than favorable for pole vaulting with wind and rain playing a role.

“It was tough,” Buell said. “You have to focus on what you have been working on. I would like to have jumped higher, but I am thankful to have made it to the next round so I can go there and experience that atmosphere.”

South Dakota women's track coach Lucky Huber was pleased with the way Buell handled the conditions.

“It was just a great performance,” Huber said. “The weather out there was tough. Everybody had to battle the conditions. Bethany handled them perfectly.”

Buell, the GWC champion, is ranked ninth in the field after her school record-setting effort of 13-9 1/4 (4.20 meters) at the Howard Wood Relays on May 6. That performance was the 12th-best in NCAA Division I this season.

Need to know 

• Besides the GWC, the Big South (Natalie Pearson - UNC Asheville), the Ohio Valley (Lydia Kosgei - Eastern Kentucky), the Patriot League (Laura Rycek - Bucknell) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (Raina Sanders - Jackson State) are all conferences with just one woman participating at the national championships.

• Dominance by the power conferences is evident by a breakdown of entrants. Oregon and Texas have 16 participants each. Trailing at 15 each is LSU and Texas A&M. For perspective, the Missouri Valley Conference has 15 total from all its member schools.

Oregon
Michel

• Oregon’s Claire Michel broke the school record in the women's 3,000 meter steeplechase for the third time this season on her way to advancing to the NCAA Championships June 8-11. Making the field this season is especially sweet for Michel. The Oregon senior hurt her right foot in winning the Pac-10 title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last season. She attempted to qualify for nationals two weeks later at the NCAA West preliminary round, but things only got worse.

Michel, the Pac-10 champion in the event, lost to Colorado’s Shalaya Kipp (10:00.03), but the senior from Clackamas, Ore., ran a 10:02.55, which lowered her own school record by more than two seconds.

Quick hits

• In the next to last rankings of the season, there was a shake up in the top-five. Oregon, ranked third last week, takes over the top spot from Texas A&M, which slipped to No. 2. LSU, No. 2 last week is now No. 3. The new No. 4 is Arkansas, which moves up from No. 8, and Oklahoma is up to No. 5 from No. 6.

• Illinois senior Chantelle Groenewoud (3,000-meter steeplechase) is going out in style as she advanced to the outdoor championships. Groenewoud grabbed the 12th and final qualifying spot with the second-fastest time in school history (10:14.94). She also reached the national meet in the steeplechase during her freshman and sophomore seasons.

Princeton senior Ashley Higginson is one of six Ivy League participants in the NCAA Championship. She qualified in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.