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Montana State's Duncan Hamilton, Levi Taylor advance to steeplechase finals at USA Outdoor Championships

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BOZEMAN — Levi Taylor’s priority Thursday was to advance to the men’s steeplechase finals. He did that and then some.

Taylor, who just finished his redshirt sophomore season at Montana State, will run in the steeplechase finals of the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships thanks to his personal record run in the preliminaries Thursday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. The Laurel native will join teammate Duncan Hamilton in Saturday’s steeplechase championship race.

“I can’t really explain how fun it is being with your teammate, going all the way through to the final,” Taylor told 406mtsports.com over the phone. “I get kind of nervous, and having him there is just so awesome. Warming up with him, racing with him, it’s so cool.”

Taylor easily broke his previous steeplechase PR of 8 minutes, 30.2 seconds, running Thursday’s heat in 8:27.05. It was the seventh-fastest time in his heat and overall, and it bested Hamilton (8:29.56) by more than two seconds.

“I still think I can go a lot faster than 8:27,” Taylor said. “I’m pumped for Saturday.”

The men’s steeplechase had two heats Thursday, and the top five in each qualified for the finals. The next four fastest runners also advanced, which is why Taylor will run Saturday despite finishing seventh in his heat. Hamilton had the fifth-fastest time in the second heat and the 12th-fastest overall.

Taylor could’ve broken his PR and still not reached the finals — the slowest qualifying time was 8:29.85. He shattered it thanks to his strategy of “going straight to the back and steering clear of traffic,” he said. He focused on using good form over the hurdles and staying relaxed over the barriers.

Taylor knew going into the meet that his heat was loaded with fast steeplechasers, and it didn’t discourage him. It helped him.

“That’s probably what got me through to the final, being in such a fast heat, having the whole front pack kind of pull me through,” he said. “That’s kind of what’s been getting me through since regionals, since nationals.”

Like Taylor, reaching the finals was all Hamilton tried to accomplish in the prelims. The Bozeman native took the lead around the 1,200-meter mark of his heat, and he tried to conserve some energy.

“Got a little closer at the end there than it probably should’ve,” Hamilton said. “But that’s OK. We survived and advanced, and we’re on to Saturday.”

Hamilton’s season- and personal-best steeplechase time of 8:18.88 meets the world qualifying standard and would’ve handily topped the fastest runner on Thursday (8:23.39). The rising senior can’t wait to run another steeplechase race with Taylor, this time on the biggest stage of their careers.

“We both have really big goals for Saturday,” Hamilton said. “We’re both ready to shock a lot of people.”

MSU high jumper Lucy Corbett and 400-meter hurdler Drake Schneider will compete in their events on Friday night (the finals for women's high jump and the prelims for men's 400 hurdlers). Fellow Bobcat Cantor Coverdell will throw the javelin on Sunday afternoon.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Corbett's event Friday would be the preliminaries, when it is actually the finals. That error has been fixed.

Aragon sisters, Henderson don’t advance

Aragons at USAs

Christina Aragon (left) and sister Dani Aragon embrace after running the second heat of the women's 1,500 meters at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships on Thursday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Christina and Dani Aragon fell short of the women’s 1,500-meter finals of the U.S. championships in their preliminary runs Thursday at Hayward Field.

The sisters and Billings Senior graduates both ran in the second 1,500 heat, which sent its top three runners to the finals. Christina finished fifth in the heat with a time of 4:16.57, while Dani was ninth/last at 4:22.78.

Overall, Christina was 19th and Dani was 29th in the 30-person women’s 1,500 field. The last qualifying time was 4:15.05.

In the women's 800 meters, Corvallis' Sadi Henderson finished seventh of the eight runners in her heat and 28th of 32 overall with a time of 2:05.22. Henderson, who competes for the Atlanta Track Club, was vying for a spot in Friday’s semifinals. Her personal best is 1:58.62, a world qualifying standard time.

Email Victor Flores at victor.flores@406mtsports.com and follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores406

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