USC Survives A Long First Day At NCAA Track & Field Championships

June 10, 2009

FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. - USC avoided the lightning and the rain to advance seven athletes to finals and four competitors to semifinals during the first day of the 2009 NCAA Track and Field Championships being hosted by Arkansas at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Ark.

A mist began to fall at the beginning of the running portion of the meet and advanced to rainfall throughout the competition until action for the night was stopped at 7:05 p.m. CT due to an approaching lightning storm. Fans and athletes were asked to clear the stadium with the public asked to wait in their cars and the athletes taking shelter in Bud Walton Arena, the home of Razorback basketball. After more than a three hour delay, the 'day's' activities were resumed at 10:15 p.m. CT with four field and four track events remaining on both the men's and women's side.

'The conditions were tough today,' said USC Director of Track and Field Ron Allice. 'We didn't have a great day, but we are still alive.'

The day began for the Trojans at 10:30 a.m. when sophomore Trey Henderson took part in the men's hammer competition. He had a series of 195-7, a foul and 192-0 and finished in 21st place, with the top 12 advancing to Friday's finals.

Senior and defending NCAA champion Eva Orban was next in the women's hammer throw and she eased into Friday's finals by placing fifth with a best throw of 203-11 (62.16m). Her other two throws went for 197-1 and 193-4, all of which would have qualified her for the finals. The farthest throw on the day was 215-9 by Akron senior Stevi Large, who ranks second in the hammer behind Orban.

The women's 4x100m relay began the track portion and wet portion of the meet with USC's team of junior Shalina Clarke, junior Judith Onyepunuka, freshman Erica Alexander and freshman Aareon Payne in the first heat. They placed fourth in their race with a time of 44.84 after trouble in the final handoff. Following the race it was determined that the handoff came out of the zone and they were automatically disqualified even though their time would not have advanced them to the finals. USC entered the competition with the 10th fastest time during the season and had to be one of the four heat winners or in the next five best times to advance to the finals.

The men's 400m relay team of senior Desmond Hamilton, junior Ahmad Rashad, freshman Joey Hughes and senior Matthew Palmer placed sixth in its race with a time of 40.03. They too were elimated from the competition by the end of the second heat and finished 16th overall, despite entering the NCAA Championships with the ninth-best time.

USC's 800m runners senior Irek Sekretarski and freshman Blake Shaw were next in the first round of the event with the top three in each heat and next six best times advancing to tomorrow's semifinals. The pair was in the slowest-paced heat so it was going to take a top three finish to advance and Sekretarski placed third with a time of 1:49.77, while Shaw came in fourth and closing with a time of 1:50.34.

Rashad had to place in the top three in his heat or in the next six best times to advance into the semifinals much later in the night and took care of business in the preliminaries with a time of 10.24, good for second in his heat.

Freshman Dalilah Muhammad won her heat in the 400m IH preliminaries with a time of 57.38 to move on to tomorrow's semifinals. Her time was the fifth-fastest of the 18 runners advancing. Freshman Duane Walker did not have as much success, placing sixth in his heat with a time of 52.12 and did not advance to the semifinals.

Redshirt junior Brandon Estrada did not advance to the pole vault finals as his best clearance on the day was 16-8 3/4 (5.10m). He had a strong season, though, clearing a PR of 17-7 (5.36m) at the NCAA West Regional which vaulted him to 10th on USC's all-time list.

The final completed event before the deluge was the women's javelin and sophomore Kristine Busa advanced to Friday's finals with her first throw of 166-8 (50.80m). She placed seventh in the prelims with the final 12 advancing to the finals. Her other throws were 164-10 and 162-10, both of which also would have placed her seventh in the prelims.

After the rains ended and the sky returned to darkness following an eerie orange glow during the delay, the women's 400m dash got underway. USC junior Elizabeth Olear needed to place in the top three in her preliminary heat to advance to Friday's semifinals and she did just that, coming in third with a time of 54.09.

The men's 400m preliminary race was next and Hughes and junior Nate Anderson need to place in the top three of their heat or have one of the three fastest remaining times. Anderson was in the first heat and while nursing a sore hamstring came in fifth with a time of 48.92 and did not qualify for the finals. Hughes then placed fourth in his heat with a time of 46.36, just getting edged out by Ohio State's Thomas Murdaugh by .01 seconds. Through the first first four heats, he had the best non-automatic qualifying time and needed to sweat out the final heat to make sure he advanced. None of the non-automatic qualifiers posted a better time, so Hughes advanced to Friday's semifinals.

While that race was going on, USC senior Corey White needed just one throw to automatically qualify for Friday's men's javelin finals, as he surpased the automatic qualifying distance of 72.00m with a throw of 254-10 (77.68m). He was the only competitor to reach the automatic qualifying mark and had the best throw by more than 20 feet over the second-place qualifier Chris Hill of Georgia, who also took just one throw which went 234-4 (71.43m). Hill is the defending NCAA Champion in the event, while White is the 2008 runner-up.

Rashad came back to run in the men's 100m dash semifinals at 11 p.m. more than 4 and a half hours after he advanced through the preliminary round. The top four finishers from each heat and the next best time would punch their ticket to Friday evening's finals. Rashad was in the second heat and after the first heat knew he had to finish in the top four or finish fifth with a time better than 10.38. After a little drama in which it looked like the event's favorite Trindon Holliday of LSU had false started, it turned out Florida's Jeremy Hall had flinched first and was disqualified. Rashad took care of business for himself by coming in third and advancing to the finals with a time of 10.28.

Sophomore Zsofia Erdelyi then took fourth in her heat of the women's 3000m steeplechase to advance to Friday's finals as the top five in both sections and the next four best times advanced.

Redshirt junior Manjula Wijesekara eased into Friday's men's high jump finals by tying for first with a clearance of 6-10 3/4 (2.10m). Three of the top 11 seeded high jumpers were not as fortunate as they did not qualify for the 14-man final.

Redshirt junior Brysun Stately advanced to her third NCAA pole vault finals as one of 10 participants clearing 13-5 1/4 (4.10m). The two-time All-American in the event passed on the first two height and took three attempts to clear 4.00 meters, before clearing 4.10 meters in her first attempt to reach the finals.

Trojans scheduled to compete tomorrow are: Nia Ali (heptathlon), Shalina Clarke (100m HH), Aaron Dan (discus), Muhammad (400m IH semifinals), Aareon Payne (200m), Sekretarski (800m semifinals), Oscar Spurlock (110m HH), Shana Woods (heptathlon) and both the men's and women's 4x400m relay teams.

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