EUGENE, Ore. -- For the fourth straight year, the Sam Houston State track and field program will have athletes competing at the NCAA Championships, this year with a record number of participants.  

Beginning Wednesday, seven Bearkats will be among a group of nearly 700 athletes competing for a national title at historic Heyward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon.

Returning for a second straight year are hammer thrower Josh Hernandez and sprinter Chris Jefferson. Freshmen Clayton Fritsch (pole vault) and Zachary Johnson (triple jump) will also join first time competitors Fabian McCall, AJ Tisdel and Lawrence Coleman who will join Jefferson in the 4x100 meter relay.

“We aren’t just happy to be here,” said head coach Dave Self. “We are going to get in there and compete. It is a tough field here this year as you would expect at a national championship, but we are looking forward to going out there and making sure when we line up, we are competing.”

For Jefferson, he will become the first Bearkat athlete to compete in the outdoor national championship in two separate events, running in the 100 meter dash at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday as well as the sprint relay at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

“For me this is a bit of redemption,” said the junior from Jersey Village. “I was able to run here last year, but I was hurt and finished last, so it was kind of like I didn’t really get to compete. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to really get out there and run.”

Hernandez made a splash as a freshman in 2017, finishing 14th in the hammer throw at the NCAA Championships to earn All-American honors. He will be the first Bearkat athlete to compete, with his competition getting started at 4 p.m. on Wednesday.

Fritsch, a freshman from Sealy, will enter the competition with the second-best qualifying mark in the group of 24 competitors. His competition will begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

“Just qualifying for me was huge,” Fritsch said. “But I know I still have some big jumps in me, and I’m looking forward to going out there and putting up some big marks.”

Johnson, a freshman from Spring qualified for the NCAA Finals, earning the last qualifying mark at the NCAA Preliminaries last week in Sacramento, Calif. He will have the longest wait to compete, with the triple jump not getting started until 7:40 p.m. on Friday evening.