USC Has Strong Second Day At NCAA Track & Field Championships

June 11, 2009

FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. - USC qualified two more individuals and two relay teams for the finals and Nia Ali has the day one lead in the heptathlon after action today (June 11) at the 2009 NCAA Track and Field Championships being hosted by Arkansas at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Ark.

'Things got better today,' said USC Director of Track and Field Ron Allice. 'The performance by our people on both relay teams are beyond description. If there is any lesson to be learned it is that you have to keep the faith. Sometimes the athletes teach the coach. That's with Nate (Anderson) being hurt, Dalilah (Muhammad) coming back (from running the 400m IH) and Olear not being 100 percent. For us to accomplish that, it's pretty impressive. I think we opened some eyes today. Remember our goal is to get to a final and score, but you have to get to the final.'

Juniors Nia Ali and Shana Woods were the first Trojans to compete as they took part in the first four events of the women's heptatlon: the 100m HH, high jump, shot put and 200m dash.

Ali got the day off to a good start by posting the fastest 100m HH time and season best of 13.17, just .03 off her PR to score 1,099 points to take a 22-point lead after one event. Woods then posted a solid time of 13.98 to earn 981 points and a 13th-place standing in the field of 27 with six events left in the competiton.

Ali cleared 5-7 3/4 (1.72m) to tie for seventh in the high jump, while Woods cleared 5-5 1/4 (1.66m) to tie for 14th in the event. After two events, Ali maintained her 22-point lead, but the top five competitors were separated by just 28 points.

The shot put was not a good event for Ali as her best mark was 41-0 1/2 (12.51m) which earned her 695 points and dropped her into third place. Woods had a season best shot put of 35-4 (10.77m) to stand in 17th place after the first three events.

The final heptathlon event on the day was the 200m dash and it was a good one for the Trojan duo. Ali ran a PR of 23.90 to earn 990 points and re-take the competition lead with a total of 3,663 points. Woods ran 24.28 to finish sixth in the event and earn 954 points. After the first day she stands in 15th place with 3,321 points.

Ali's first day total is 57 points better than her previous day one PR of 3,606 set at the 2008 Pac-10 Championships which she had to withdraw from after that day with a sore hamstring. She is in a tight battle, though, as her lead is just 12 points over Liz Roehrig of Minnesota, 62 over Bettie Wade of Michigan and 89 over Pac-10 Champion Brianne Theisen of Oregon.

Woods also had a first-day PR with 3,321 points, eight better than her previous best set at the 2008 Pac-10 Championships. Woods is only 68 points out of eighth place and All-America honors.

Redshirt junior Aaron Dan had a tough day in the men's discus, fouling on all three attempts to eliminate any chance of moving on to the finals. Dan came into the meet off a season-best effort of 189-2 (57.67m) in placing sixth at the NCAA West Regionals.

Junior Shalina Clarke took third in her 100m HH preliminary heat with a time of 13.52 to automatically advance to Friday's semifinals. Also advancing to a Friday semifinal was sophomore Oscar Spurlock in the 110m HH. He placed second in his heat with a time of 13.83 to automatically move on.

Freshman Aareon Payne had a time of 24.00 in the women's 200m dash to finish fourth in her heat. She needed to place in the top three to automatically advance. Since she did not make it automatically she had to have one of the top three non-qualifier times. Through the first three heats she had the second-fastest time in that group, but in the fourth heat, the fourth and fifth-place finishers had times of 23.51 and 23.81 respectively to eliminate her from the competition.

Freshman Dalilah Muhammad then assured herself a spot in the women's 400m IH finals tomorrow as she placed second in her heat and second overall with a PR of 56.49. That time also improved Muhammad's number three ranking on USC's all-time list as her previous best was 56.58.

The last individual Trojan to compete on the day was Irek Sekretarski in the men's 800m race. The senior ran an impressive time of 1:47.11 to come back from last place with under 300m to go to place fourth in his heat. He did not qualify automatically, but posted the best time among non-qualifiers to advance to Saturday's final. Sekretarski's time was more than a second better than his previous career best and places him eighth on USC's all-time 800m list.

The remaining Trojans to compete today were the women's and men's 4x400m relay teams in the seminfinals. Each would need to finish in the top two of their heat or have one of the next three best times. The women were up first and the group of junior Elizabeth Olear, Clarke, Muhammad and junior Myra Hasson had a blazing time of 3:31.57 to place second in its heat and automatically qualify for Saturday's final. USC's time was more than two and one-half seconds better than the relay team's previous season best and ranks sixth all-time on the USC 1600m relay list. Olear had a split time of 53.8, Clarke 52.6, Muhammad 52.7 and Hasson 52.3.

The men's team also had an impressive race as junior Jason Price, junior Nate Anderson, freshman Joey Hughes and freshman Duane Walker posted a season-best time of 3:04.89 to finish third in its heat and the second best of the non-automatic qualifiers. Hughes had an amazing third leg to get USC back in the mix and Walker did the rest. What made it even more impressive is that both Anderson and Walker were a little dinged up after yesterday's races, yet dug down deep to advance the Trojans to Saturday's finals. The time was more than a second better that their season best and was just .32 seconds off cracking the Trojans' all-time top 10. Their split times in the race were 47.6 for Price, 47.0 for Anderson, 44.8 for Hughes and 45.2 for Walker.

Eight Trojans are scheduled to compete tomorrow in NCAA finals and a chance at All-America honors (top 8): Kristine Busa (javelin), Zsofia Erdelyi (steeplechase), Dalilah Muhammad (400m IH), Eva Orban (hammer), Ahmad Rashad (100m), Brysun Stately (pole vault), Corey White (javelin) and Manjula Wijesekara (high jump). Also, Ali and Woods will compete in the final three events of the heptathlon and a chance to earn All-America status. Junior Aven Wright will participate in the preliminaries of the men's triple jump, Olear in the semifinals of the women's 400m dash and Clarke and Spurlock will run in the high hurdles semifinals.

Florida leads in the women's competition after three events with 13 points and Oregon on the men's side after four events with 20 points.

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