BLOOMINGTON — It’s rare to see a men’s team go under 2:20 in Quals, or a women’s team go under 2:41.
Saturday, four men’s teams and four women’s teams beat those respective marks.
Back-to-back defending champions Kappa Alpha Theta put up the third fastest time in women’s qualifications history (2:36.634) to take the pole, and on the men’s side, Cutters recorded its fastest Little 500 qualifications time (2:18.779) in its long history to secure the men’s pole.
In the storied history of the Cutters, the winningest team in the Little 500, it is just the team’s fourth pole. Its last came in 2010, and the team won the race from the pole position that year.
For Theta, it is the team’s sixth pole in team history, and its first since 1994. That year, Theta also won the race.
But the top end speed didn’t end at just the pole position.
Three other teams on both the mens and women’s side recorded elite times.
On the men’s side, Delta Tau Delta (2:19.759), Black Key Bulls (2:19.958) and Wright (2:19.982) all went under 2:20, something that had only been done fewer than 50 times in the race’s 60+ year history.
For Delts, it’s the first time the team has been in the first two rows since 2011, the last time Delts won the race. It is the sixth consecutive year BKB has started in the first two rows. Wright is back in the first two rows after winning the pole last year.
On the women’s side, Phoenix (2:40.053), Delta Gamma (2:40.455) and Alpha Omicron Pi (2:40.687) all went under 2:41.
Phoenix started 7th in its first year as a team last year, making this their best starting position. It is DG’s first time in the first two rows since 2013 when it started fourth and won the race. AOPi has only started in the first row twice, in 1994 and 1993 when it started third both times, making this tied for their best start ever.
The second row of the women’s field is rounded out by Teter (2:41.630) and Alpha Chi Omega (2:42.342).
Teter is back in the first two rows for the first time since 2013 after starting 18th last year. AChiO returns to the first two rows after capturing the pole last year.
For the first time since 2011, only 32 women’s teams qualified for the race as only 32 showed up to qualifications.
The men’s second row is rounded out by Phi Delta Theta (2:21.540) and Gray Goat (2:22.472). Phi Delt has started in the top 8 each year since 2007. It is the best starting position for Gray Goat since 2010 when it started third.
Pi Lambda Phi qualified 25th to make its first appearance in the Little 500 since 1955, and just its third appearance ever.
Acacia qualified 15th to make its first appearance in the Little 500 since 2012. Prior to that, Acacia had been in every race since 1953.
Young Pioneers is making its first ever appearance in the race, where it will start 24.
Tau Kappa Epsilon qualified 31st to make its first appearance since 1993. It needed its third attempt to make the race, and had to bump a team to make it in.