USC Men Tie For Seventh And Women Place 11th At NCAA Championships
June 14, 2008
DES MOINES, IOWA - Lionel Larry placed second in the men's 400m, Carol Rodriguez and Duane Solomon third respectively in the women's 400m and men's 800m, Kai Kelley sixth in the men's 110m HH and Shalina Clarke eighth in the women's 100m HH to lead the Trojans today (June 14) in the final day of the 2008 NCAA Track and Field Championships held at Jim Duncan Track and Johnny Bright Field on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The Trojan men earned 17 points today and finished tied for seventh place in the team competition with 27 points, while the USC women scored seven points today and finished in 11th place with 21 points. The crowd for today's meet was 11,410 and the four-day total was more than 41,000.
The Trojan women finished four points out of a top-10 standing which snapped USC's nation-leading streak of placing both the men and women's teams in the top 10 for three straight seasons. It was the second to last event, the women's triple jump, that sealed USC fate as Texas-El Paso took second and third place to gain 14 points and vault from tied for 21st to 10th and drop the Trojans out of the top 10 for the first time in four years.
'Our goal was to finish in the top 10 with both programs and we came close,' said USC Director of Track and Field Ron Allice. 'We were a wounded group before we got here. We came close, but you have to be lucky and you have to be good. My job is to keep the program in championship contention. We had so many good things happen this year and if you look at private schools we were the only one on the men's side in the top 10 and one of two in the top 11 on the women's side.'
The Trojan men's team began the day tied for 18th with 10 points, while the women's team had 14 points and stood tied for seventh.
'On the men's side, we came in with a skeliton crew and I thought our men performed extremely well. We were so close in the javelin, the quarter-mile and the 800m to having three national champions. What Kai Kelley did, to score in both the men's 110m HH and 400m IH and become an All-American in both was really impressive. We had people run and throw at their very best.'
Senior Carol Rodriguez was the first Trojan runner to hit the track today with an eye on an individual title and to score valuable points for USC in the team standings. In her final collegiate race, Rodriguez matched her career best with a time of 51.39, but it was only good for third place in this race as Shana Cox of Penn State ran 50.97 and Trish Bartholomew of Alabama ran 51.29.
'In the case of Carol Rodriguez because of her leg injury, we thought we'd attempt to have her run the 400m, but she hasn't trained for it specifically,' said Allice. 'She ran smart in her first two rounds. She tied her school record in the finals and got third. I'm sure she'd like to have done better, and she will, but I thought she was excellent today and she finished a very storied career at USC.'
The 2007 NCAA runner-up in the men's 400m dash Lionel Larry was next and is must have seemed like deja vu for the senior as he placed second in the race again, this time with a PR of 44.63, .01 second behind Baylor's LaJerald Betters who ran 44.62. Last season, Larry also placed second at the NCAA Championships in the 400m race, that time by .02 seconds. Larry's time bettered his third place standing on USC's all-time 400m list of 44.65 set at the U.S. Championships last summer.
'I left it all on the track,' said Larry. 'I couldn't ask for a better race. I'm mad I lost two championships by .03 seconds, but I can't be too mad. I PRd, but I didn't win. Again, I thought I had it won at the line, but I guess not...that's life.'
'Lionel Larry had a perfect race,' said Allice. 'You can summize that he's had two of the closest 400m races at the NCAAs ever and the third-fastest 400m race by an American this season. Someone runs their PR, what more can you ask. I really think if he had a closer lane assignment (to Betters), it might have been a different result. I'm very proud of his accomplishments.'
Another senior Duane Solomon also came through with a top-three finish, taking third in the men's 800m race with a time of 1:45.71, just two one-hundreths of a seconds off his PR set last year at the U.S. Championships. It was another great race with Solomon and eventual winner Jacob Hernandez of Texas battling for the lead down the stretch, with Oregon's Andrew Wheating closing on the outside to finish between the two just a split-second off the winner.
'It was a very fast race,' said Solomon. 'I knew it would go out like that. My time, I'm happy with it, it's my best this season by two seconds. I felt I could get it and pushed him (Hernandez) and we pushed him to a stadium record. All three of us went under 1:46.00, so that's great.'
'Duane Solomon was aggressive and ran as perfect a race as he could,' said Allice. 'Running into a strong head-wind with someone who you would have trouble seeing if you turned him sideways was not to his benefit, so the conditions also played a part in things for both him and Lionel Larry.'
The final events for the Trojans were the women's and men's short hurldes races with sophomore Shalina Clarke in the women's 100m HH and senior Kai Kelley in the men's 110m HH. Clarke ran 13.58 to finish eighth, earn All-America honors and gain the USC women their last point in the meet.
'Shalina Clarke is very good in both hurdles, like Kelley,' said Allice. 'She's just a sophomore, is an NCAA All-American and should have two great years ahead of her. She has a great work ethic and has a great future for herself and the Women of Troy.'
Kelley, who placed seventh in the 110m HH at the 2007 NCAA Championships, placed sixth this year with a time of 13.80, only .003 seconds out of fifth place. He earned his second All-America honors of the meet and scored three more points for the Trojan men.
'To go through the heats in the intermediates and the high hurdles, that is a long struggle,' said Allice. 'You have to be a special athlete to do both and he did well in both.'
Sophomore Shana Woods was the other Trojan competing on the final day as she took part in the last three events in the heptathlon, beginning the day in 17th place with 3,235 points. First up was the long jump and she went 19-2 1/2 (5.85m) to earn 804 points. She then set a new personal best in the javelin with a throw of 135-4 (41.26m) to earn 691 more points. The last event in the competition was the 800m race and Woods almost missed it. The clerks moved up the start time and after missing her heat, she was inserted into the final group and had a time of 2:34.33 to earn 640 points. Her final point total was 5,370 which was good for 16th place.
Trojans who scored points and earned All-America honors for USC before today's finals were Corey White in the men's javelin (2nd), Eva Orban in the women's hammer (1st), Jessica Onyepunuka in the women's 100m dash (5th) and Kelley in the 400m IH (7th).
Coach Allice on White, Orban and Onyepunuka:
'Corey White, what can you say. He battled back and really had a better series of throws than the winner. It was a heck of a competition.'
'Eva Orban has been second, third and now first in the women's hammer. This is a person who came back from an injury, so she couldn't lift and beat the top returning thrower from last season because she is a superior technician. The best news of all is that she's come back. She is a warrior.'
'Jessica Onyepunuka was a returning All-American in the 100m and if you recall it wasn't too long ago that she wasn't 100 percent at the Pac-10s, but she bit her lip. Then she came back at the Regional and showed how good she is. That 100m field is stocked with international athletes that are going to be in Beijing. Onyepunuka is truly a great sprinter. Added to all of that is that she brought a great deal of leadership qualities to our program and will be truly missed.'
Final team standings:
Men:1.) Florida State - 52, 2.) LSU - 44, 2.) Auburn - 44, 4.) Texas - 35, 5.) Texas A&M - 32, 6.) Arizona State - 28, 7.) USC - 27, 7.) Baylor - 27, 9.) Kentucky - 25, 10.) Colorado - 24
Women:1.) LSU - 67, 2.) Arizona State - 63, 3.) Texas A&M - 48, 4.) Penn State - 39, 5.) Texas Tech - 32, 6.) Stanford - 31, 7.) Michigan - 29, 8.) Oregon - 27, 9.) Florida - 26, 10.) Texas-El Paso - 25, 11.) USC - 21.