Markita James set a Mideast Regional record in the 400m hurdles.
May 26, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Auburn men's and women's track and field teams had a successful opening day at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships, qualifying one field event athlete for the NCAA Outdoor Championships and setting one Mideast Regional record while advancing all of the Tigers' top runners to Saturday's finals.
Friday's action included four finals in field events for both the men and women, but just the preliminaries in all of the running events with the exception of the 5,000-meter runs. All other races were to determine Saturday's finalists. The top five athletes in the finals of each event and the top three relays automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Jovanee Jarrett finished third in the long jump to advance to the NCAA Championships, and she will likely be joined by several teammates Saturday after the Tigers posted 11 marks in the preliminaries that qualified them for Saturday's finals. Jarrett had a leap of 6.35m (20-10) in the long jump to earn her spot at the championship meet.
"I'm pleased with where we are," said head coach Ralph Spry. "The name of this game is simply to get in the top five and make it to the national championships. It's a scored meet, but our first priority is to get to the national championships. If we do that, the points will take care of themselves."
Markita James set a new Mideast Regional record while qualifying for the finals of the 400m hurdles, racing to a time of 56.25 seconds. James cruised comfortably down the stretch with a large lead in her heat, but still managed to break the previous meet record of :56.50 set in 2004 by Alabama's Beau Walker.
"Going in, I felt good," said James. "I felt strong. It was a little windy, but I stayed focused. I did everything my coach said. I've got faith in him, and it really paid off. I'm excited and looking forward to tomorrow. My race strategy will be the same - go out hard on the first three hurdles, then relax on the back stretch and bring it home."
Ty Akins ran a wind-aided time of 13.64 seconds while qualifying for Saturday's finals of the 110m hurdles. His time was faster than the Auburn record of :13.67 set in 1977 by James Walker and equaled in 1980 by Gene Miller, but the tailwind of 2.9 meters/second was over the legal limit of +2.0, nullifying the record. Shamar Sands earned the last qualifying spot in the finals with a mark of :13.72, which would have been the fourth-best time in school history if not for a wind of +2.3.
Despite his time, Akins felt he ran far from a perfect race. "I felt pretty good, but I crashed into too many hurdles and that cost me," said Akins. "I had a rough race, but hopefully tomorrow I'll put it all together. I had a lot more in the tank."
Josanne Lucas qualified for the finals in both hurdles events. In the 100m hurdles, she hit the second hurdle and fell behind, but recovered to win her heat with a time of :13.22. In the 400m hurdles, Lucas won her heat with a time of 56.81 seconds, which was the third-best mark in the prelims.
Kerron Stewart also qualified in a pair of events, reaching the finals of the 100m and 200m. In the 100m, she cruised to a victory in her heat with a time of :11.18. She was even more impressive in the 200m, blowing away the competition with the fastest prelim time and a personal-best of 22.84 seconds despite easing up over the last ten meters with the race well in hand.
Tamara Thomas also ran the 200m, and despite finishing third in her heat, her time of :23.52, which matches her personal best, was still seventh-best overall and advanced her to the finals.
The women's 4x100m relay team of Thomas, Jarrett, James and Stewart also advanced to tomorrow's final by winning its heat with a time of 44.37 seconds.
Reuben McCoy streaked to a victory in his heat of the 400m hurdles, advancing to the finals with a time of 51.33 seconds. Tavaris Washington was second in the same heat with a time of :52.35, but did not qualify for the finals, placing 11th.
In the men's 1500m, Jordan Davis moved on to the finals by posting a time a 3:48.83. Davis finished fifth in his heat and was not one of the four automatic qualifiers, but advanced by recording the fastest time among non-automatic qualifiers.
Michelle Williamson just missed earning an automatic qualifying spot at the NCAA championships in the finals of the women's high jump, tying for sixth place with a leap of 1.76m (5-9.25). Only one jumper posted a better mark than Williamson, who was one of nine competitors to clear 1.76m, but four of the nine cleared that height on their first attempt, while Williamson took two tries.
Katalin Mate finished 16th in the javelin with a mark of 40.53m (133-0), which was well below her season best of 45.75m (150-0). Mate's mark came on her first attempt before she fouled on each of her other two tries.
Like Lucas, Jasmine Johnson ran in both hurdles races, but did not advance to the finals of either despite running well. She posted a personal-best time of :13.78 in the 100m hurdles, which ranks 10th in school history, while finishing 21st overall in the prelims. In the 400m hurdles, she had a time of 1:00.95 to finish 15th overall.
"On the women's side, everything that we needed to happen today happened," said Spry. "Josanne and Markita made it through in their hurdle races, Kerron looked great in both sprints and Jovanee Jarrett finished third in the long jump. I think we're right where we need to be. Everybody ran solid and we'll be okay tomorrow.
"For the men, we didn't bring a lot of firepower, but Reuben looked great, Ty and Shamar both made the finals of the 110 hurdles and Jordan Davis looked good. It's been a great competition and if we can compete tomorrow like we did today, we'll be in great shape."
Saturday's action at the Mideast Regional begins at 11 a.m. Eastern time with the women's hammer throw and men's high jump, and continues until approximately 9 p.m. Eastern. Those athletes who advance to the NCAA Championships will compete June 7-10 in Sacramento, Calif.