It's Finally Over!

May 5, 2001

Los Angeles - Buoyed by unexpected heroics in the distances and throws, the USC men's track and field team ended 22 years of futility today by defeating UCLA, 82-81, in the 68th annual dual meet before a capacity crowd of 3,127 at Katherine B. Loker Stadium on the USC campus.

'It's really a great feeling,' said USC coach Ron Allice. 'I've had some great athletes and teams in my years here, but this is the team that did it. They will forever be known as the jinx busters.'

Sophomore walk-on Justin Neems' suprise third place in the 5000 meters put an end to the jinx for the USC men, who now lead the overall series, 39-29. The one-point margin equalled the 1999 meet, won by the Bruins, 82-81, for closest margin of victory in the series.

In the women's meet, No. 1 USC fell to No. 2 UCLA, 85-78, as the Bruins clinched the victory by winning the 1600-meter relay in a stadium record time of 3:32. 76. The UCLA women have now defeated USC nine years in a row and lead the series, 15-3.

On a day that saw the dedication of USC's new Katherine B. Loker Stadium and the honoring of its 1951 and 1976 national championship teams, the Trojan men put together a near-perfect meet. Sophomore Andrew Knutsen started it off by finishing third in the 3000-meter steeplechase (personal-best-9:19.09) to pick up a point for USC, then junior Kevin Elliot ran a personal-best 3:51.95 to take second in the 1500 meters, netting three points. The Trojans, who only scored two points in the middle and long distances against UCLA in 2000, scored a total of 10 points in those events in 2001, as Elliot came back to win the 800 meters in 1:50.55 and Neems took third in the 5000 in 15:13.32. William O'Grady bettered his previous best by over 15 feet to take an unexpected second in the javelin (206-6), while decathlete Tell Hendren took an unlooked-for third with a personal-best 185-6. In the 110-meter high hurdles, Ryan Wilson led a USC sweep in 13.97, while Sultan McCullough's first open race of the season led a sweep of the 100 meters in 10.28. By the time UCLA's Kyle Erickson hit the final hurdle in the 400-meter hurdles, allowing Wilson to win in 51.29, the Trojans were within striking distance of the 82 points needed for the win. Djeke Mambo and Justin Cox went first and second in the triple jump, Dennis Kholev and Jeff Ryan went first and third in the pole vault and Devon Ward and Andre Ammons took second and third in the 200 meters to set the table for Neems' heroics.

'I don't turn anybody away in this program,' said Allice. 'I'll take a skinny kid, put him in a meet like this, with a crowd like this and miracles do happen.'

Other highlights for the Trojan men: Ammons won the 400 meters in 46.39, USC's 400-meter relay won in 39.98, Dawid Jaworski won the high jump in 7-1 3/4 and Kori Dickerson finished tied for second at 6-8, Mambo won the long jump at 25-0 1/2 and Norbert Horvath won the hammer with a mark of 223-11.

The women's meet was no less exciting, as the capacity crowd saw a slugfest between two elite teams that came down to the 1600-meter relay. The Women of Troy looked solid early, as USC soccer player turned trackster Barbara Almarez helped her team pick up a key point by finishing third in the 3000 meters and the 400-meter relay squad raced to the win in 43.70. But the Bruins stormed back as Shakedia Jones shocked two-time NCAA champion Angela Williams in the 100 meters with a nation-leading 11.13 (to Williams' 11.18) and Michelle Perry won both the 100-meter and 400-meter hurdles. USC bounced back to sweep the long jump thanks to a personal best from Disia Page (19-9 3/4) and the meet hinged on the outcome of the 1600-meter relay. But the Bruins' team of Adia McKinnon, Sheena Johnson, Ysanne Williams and Michelle Perry defeated the USC squad of Natasha Neal, Carla Estes, Malika Edmonson and Brigita Langerholc in a stadium-record 3:32.76.

Other highlights for the Women of Troy: Kinshasa Davis ran a personal-best and NCAA provisional mark of 11.39 to take third in the 100 meters and also ran a season-best and NCAA automatic 22.98 to win the 200 meters, Carla Estes won the 400 meters in a season-best 53.36, Brigita Langerholc won the 800 meters in time of 2:03.49, Aleksandra Deren won the 1500 in an NCAA provisional 4:20.84, Lucyna Ligaj won the 3000 meters in 10:03.28, Natasha Neal finished third in the 400 hurdles in a season -best and NCAA automatic 57.16, Spring Harris finished second in the high jump with a personal best and NCAA provisional 5-10 1/2 and Inga Stasiulionyte won the javelin in a personal-best, NCAA automatic and nation-leading 173-9.

The USC and UCLA men's and women's teams meet again at the Pac-10 Championships to be held in Berkeley, Calif., on May 19-20, then again at the NCAA Championships at Eugene, Ore., on May 30-June 2.

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