USC's Track And Field Teams Head To NCAA West Regionals

May 24, 2005

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The Meet

The USC men's and women's track and field teams travel to Eugene, Ore. to compete in the 2005 NCAA West Regional Championships hosted by the University of Oregon at Hayward Field this Friday and Saturday (May 27-28). Over 450 athletes from more than 25 qualifying schools will compete. The top five athletes and top three relay teams in each event from schools in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Utah automatically will advance to the NCAA Championships to be held in Sacramento, Calif, Wednesday-Saturday, June 8-11. On May 30, another 5-8 athletes per event that finished sixth, seventh or eighth in their regionals will also be selected by the NCAA championships committee via an at-large method based on season bests.


In 2004, the Trojan men's (79 points) and women's (82) track and field teams both finished second in the standings to UCLA (M-141, W-141) in the meet held at Cal State Northridge. In the inaugural NCAA West Regional Championship held at Stanford in 2003, the USC men's team took second (92), while the Women of Troy finished third (76).


The USC men are tied for 12th and the Women of Troy eighth in both the May 18 Top 25 rankings and the most recent rankings, which project the standings for the NCAA Championships.


USC returns four champions from last year's NCAA West Regional Championships--seniors Wes Felix (200m), Allen Simms (long jump, triple jump) and Iryna Vashchuk (1500m) and junior Phillip Francis (100m).


The USC men's and women's track and field teams each finished fourth at the Pac-10 Track and Field Championships held at Drake Stadium on the campus of UCLA in Westwood, Calif on May 13-14. Overall, the Trojans won seven individual championships and one team crown in the women's 400m relay. The Trojan men finished with 106 points to follow first-place finisher Oregon (152), UCLA (134.50) and Arizona State (122), while the Women of Troy picked up 99 points and finished behind Stanford (173), UCLA (125) and Arizona State (118).


After the men's and womens teams both finished fourth in the Pac-10 Championships, the Trojans are looking to make a strong showing at the NCAAs, despite the loss of some key point-scoring athletes. For the first time in school history, USC has two 7-4 high jumpers (currently ranked second and fourth nationally) on the same roster. Junior Jesse Williams, who jumped 7-5 to win the 2005 NCAA Indoor high jump crown in March and then soared 7-5 3/4 at the Pac-10 meet to tie the school record, and freshman Manjula Wijesekara, a 2004 Olympian from Sri Lanka, will help lead USC in the field competition. The Trojans can also expect points from senior Allen Simms (2003 NCAA Indoor triple jump champ), the best horizontal combo jumper in the country. Simms' marks are second in the nation in the triple jump (55-2 ¾) and fourth in the long jump (25-9 ¼). On the track, the Trojans have the second fastest 4x100m relay unit in the country (Arizona State's B team is first), running 38.89 at the Mt. SAC Relays to put them third on the USC all-time list, marking the school's fastest time since 1980. The sprinting corps is led by senior Wes Felix, a two-time Pac-10 200m champ and 2005 Pac-10 100m champ. The mid-distance squad is a pillar of strength for USC this season, knocking on the top 10 charts with the top three 800m runners all under 1:49.


This year, the Trojans are led by junior All-American hurdler Virginia Powell. She won the 60m crown at the 2005 NCAA Indoor Championships in March and has one of the country's top outdoor times in the 100m hurdles (12.70w) ; she also placed first in the Pac-10 Championships in the 100m hurdles and the 100m dash. Sophomore Candice Davis is having a solid season, with a personal-best 13.13w in the 100m HH and 1:01.69 in the 400m IH. The Women of Troy sprinting corps is young, but talented. The Trojans had three 100m runners finish in the Pac-10's top six. Senior Alexis Weatherspoon ran a season-best, wind-aided 11.31 at the dual meet and finished second place in the Pac-10 with an 11.43 mark. She also finished third in the Pac-10 Championships in the 200m with a 23.41 mark. Freshman Jessica Onyepunuka, who has a 100m season-best 11.43w, won the 100m at the UCSD Triton Invitational and finished sixth in the Pac-10 Championships. In the mid-distance area, sophomore Treani Swain and senior Gina Clayton finished fourth and eighth respectively in the 800m in the Pac-10. Senior Iryna Vashchuk is having another outstanding season, winning the Pac-10 championships with a time of 4:16.02 in the 1500m, which ranks fourth nationally. On the field, the Women of Troy jumpers have been plagued by injuries this season. Senior pole vaulter Melissa Astete (winner of USC's 2005 Willis O. Hunter award for highest cumulative GPA among graduating senior athletes) and sophomore pole vaulter Brittani Bernhard finished tied for fifth and tied for 10th in the Pac-10 Championships in that event. Sophomore Julia Rozenfeld has been consistent in the hammer, finishing fourth in the Pac-10 Championships with a throw of 58.97m and ranks 12th in the NCAA with a 61.90m throw.


Several current Trojan athletes have made their mark on the school top 10 lists. New entries this year include Treani Swain (8th, 2:05.93) and Gina Clayton (10th, 2:06.58) in the 800m, Iryna Vashchuk (2nd, 16:28.71) in the 5,000m and (3rd 4:16.02) in the 1,500m, Candice Davis (T2nd, 13.14) behind Virginia Powell in the 100m HH (12.74) and also moved to seventh in the 400m IH after running 59.56 at the dual meet, Talia Stewart ninth in the 400m HH (59.71), Kristen Berglas (2nd, 11:06.70) and Harlye Maya (4th, 12:22.50) in the 3000m SC, Alexis Weatherspoon (8th, 23.28) in the 200m and Brittani Bernhard soared 12-11 ½ to tie with Melissa Astete for first in the pole vault. On the men's side, Wes Felix, who was already seventh on the 200m list, broke into the top-10 in the 100m after winning the dual meet (10th, 20.43), Manjula Wijesekara shattered a 25-year-old freshman record in the high jump (T3rd, 7-4 ½ ), and Adam Midles made his way to seventh in the hammer (216-0). Other Trojan top performers competing include Virginia Powell in the 100m HH (1st, 12.74, second on Pac-10 all-time list) and the 100m (6th, 11.32), Tracee Thomas in the 400m (6th, 52.99), Iryna Vashchuk in the 1500m (2nd, 4:12.79) Julia Rosenfeld in the hammer (4th, 203-1), Kate Hutchinson in the discus (5th, 168-1), Leslie Erickson (2nd, 168-11) and Andrea McBride (3rd, 161-7) in the javelin, Tomasz Babiskiewicz in the 1500m (3rd, 3:43.41), Jesse Williams in the high jump (T-1st, 7-5 3/4), Allen Simms in the triple jump (1st, 56-7 1/2, also a Pac-10 record) and the long jump (4th, 26-3 ¾) and Dennis Rice (4th, 211-6) in the javelin.


The Trojan men's program has won an unprecedented 26 NCAA outdoor national titles (including nine straight in 1935-43), plus two NCAA indoor crowns, far more than any other school. In fact, in the history of the NCAA, only the Oklahoma State wrestling program (31) has more national titles than USC men's outdoor track and field. The Trojans also have had 108 individual champions over the years. The Women of Troy won their first NCAA team championship in 2001 and have had 19 individual collegiate champions.


USC's 4x100m relay team is one of the strongest units in the country and is reminiscent of USC's storied sprinting past. Junior Phillip Francis, senior Wes Felix, freshman Lionel Larry and senior Marvin Anderson ran USC's fastest time in 25 years --38.89-- at the Mt. SAC Relays on April 17. Unfortunately, Lionel Larry was injured at the 2005 Oxy Invite and will not compete in NCAA West Regional, but the Trojans are deep and still well-equipped to be competitve this weekend.....Wes Felix fell just short of becoming the first man to win back-to-back-to-back 200m conference crowns in the history of the race (USC's Lennox Miller won the 200-yard crown from 1967-1969), when he ran a 20.65 time to finish second to Seth Amoo of ASU (20.63). Senior Allen Simms, who holds the USC and Pac-10 triple jump records, defended his triple jump title in the Pac-10 Championships, the fifth year in a row that a Trojan athlete has won the event (Djeke Mambo won in 2001, and Julien Kapek won in 2002 and 2003).....In March, junior Jesse Williams became the first Trojan to ever win the NCAA Indoor high jump crown and has the opportunity to become the first Trojan ever to win the men's NCAA indoor and outdoor high jump crown in the same season and only the second Trojan in 45 years to win an outdoor high jump crown. He tied the school record with a jump of 7-5 3/4 at the Pac-10 Championships.....In his first year at Troy, Manjula Wijesekara broke the 25-year-old USC freshman record in the high jump (7-2 ½ set by Anthony Caire at the UCLA dual meet May 1, 1982) with his season-best 7-4 ½ jump at the Mt. SAC Relays.....Junior Virginia Powell, the Pac-10's best sprinter/hurlder combo since Gail Devers, defended her Pac-10 100m crown (her 11.15w mark on April 30 was best in the Pac-10) and won her first conference crown in the 100m HH (her 12.70w mark on April 9 also was best in the Pac-10)...Sophomore Candice Davis has improved her personal-best mark in the highs from 13.93 to 13.14, tied for second on USC's all-time list...Senior Iryna Vashchuk has won the conference 1,500m crown each of the last two seasons and also won the 2004 West Regionals in the event...The Women of Troy have dominated the Pac-10 in both the 400m and 1600m relays this season. Powell, Thomas, Weatherspoon and Onyepunuka ran a season-best 43.66 to win the Pac-10 championships and rank sixth on the Trojans all-time list. The solid 4x400m relay unit also posted the best mark in the Pac-10 this season at 3:33.78 on April 9.....Sophomore Julia Rozenfeld is the USC freshman record holder in the hammer and finished 10th in the event at the 2004 NCAA Championships.


In his 11th season as the USC Director of Track and Field, Ron Allice has brought the proud Trojan track and field heritage back to prominence. The Trojan men's program has won an unprecedented 26 NCAA outdoor team championships, 61 world records, 87 Olympic team members, 40 Olympic gold medals and 16 inductees in the U.S. National Track and Field Hall of Fame. Under Allice and his staff's guidance, the Trojan women's track team was the only NCAA school to finished in the top three for four consecutive seasons (1999-2002), winning it all in 2001. The men's track squad went on a run of seven consecutive top 10 finishes from 1994-2000, a feat last accomplished by the Men of Troy back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During his tenure, Trojan men have won six NCAA individual titles, garnered All-America acclaim 67 times and set six school records and tied another. Allice has an overall dual meet coaching mark of 211-44-1 in 36 years at five schools, including 11 state championships in 16 years at Long Beach City College, his previous stop before landing at Troy. Allice's programs have produced more than 245 All-Americans, plus 16 Olympians, four world record holders and seven American record holders.

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