Des Moines test for Gilfillan
By ADRIAN MILLER
WHEN Ashlea Gilfillan moved to Tulsa University in December last year she was hoping the move would take her athletics to the next level.
It was a big ask considering the former Tuntable resident had already represented Australia at junior levels, but the move appears to have worked after Gilfillan was named the Conference USA Female Co-Freshman of the Year after last weekend's 2007 Conference USA Outdoor Championships.
Gilfillan was outstanding at the championships, running second in the 3000m steeplechase and fourth in the 5000m run.
The Outdoor Champs is the biggest meet for Division 1 schools in the US and is among the most prestigious in the country.
Gilfillan's time in the steeplechase, 10m45.92s, was within a regional qualifying mark and broke a school record she had set earlier in the season ? at her first ever school collegiate steeplechase event.
The results mean Gilfillan, 18, has qualified for the NCAA Midwest Region Championships, which will be held in Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend.
Qualifying for the Regionals puts Gilfillan one step away from the NCAA Championships, the highest collegiate athletics event in the US.
Gilfillan, who will return home next week for her semester break, said she was ecstatic to have done so well in the Conference Championships.
"It is the main race of the season for us because it is where you race all of the other Division 1 schools, so it's important for our school to place well," she said.
"All of the races before are used to prepare for this meet but that meet is a fantastic chance to race some fast competition and hope for good racing experience."
Gilfillan's first season in Tulsa has been a successful one and one which had thrown up many new experiences.
"When I arrived it was the indoor season and this was my first time competing at an indoor track," she said.
"A highlight meet for me was during the outdoor season when I got the chance to travel to Drake Relays with some team-mates from the Tulsa track team.
"There were thousands of people watching our race as we ran on the blue track and I look forward to going back there next year because it was such a buzz.
"I can honestly say I had goosebumps all over when I walked out on the track to race."
While that was unlike any race she's ever run, the Regional Championships will be the biggest of her short Tulsa career and as much as she's looking forward to home, she said she can't afford to look past this weekend.