May 26, 2007
COLUMBIA, Mo. -
Auburn won four events and six more Tiger track and field athletes automatically qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships during the final day of the Mideast Regional Championships. The six additions bring Auburn's total to nine athletes that have automatically qualified for the national meet, with one more standing an excellent chance of getting an at-large spot.
Kerron Stewart won the women's 200m with the second-fastest time in the world this year and Michelle Vaughn won the triple jump with a new meet record for the women's squad, while Donald Thomas won the high jump with a meet record and Cory Martin won the shot put for his second title of the meet. The Tigers set four Mideast Regional records during the two-day meet and broke two school records while tying another. Auburn's men scored 55 points to finish second in the region, while the women scored 35 points to finish fifth.
The Tigers' nine athletes who automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships by finishing in the top five of their events will compete June 6-9 in Sacramento, Calif.
"Coming into this meet the name of the game was to advance to nationals, and for the most part we did exactly that," said head coach Ralph Spry. "We did what we needed to do as a team. I'm really pleased with how we did here, and we put ourselves in position to have a great shot to be a factor at nationals. I feel good about the opportunities we have to score a lot of points there."
Thomas started the day with a bang, setting Mideast Region and stadium records in the high jump. He cleared 2.30m (7-6.5) to smash the Mideast Region record of 2.22m and the facility record of 2.26m. Thomas, who won the event by more than four inches over his closest competitor, moved the bar to 2.35m (7-8.5) in an attempt to better the current world best mark of 2.34m (7-8) that he currently shares, but was unsuccessful.
Despite his records, Thomas wasn't happy with his performance, as it took him three attempts to clear 2.27m and 2.30m.
"I wasn't feeling on point today," said Thomas. "There was a lot of front breeze blowing in my face, and that threw my run-up off. I'm not used to jumping so early in the morning. I woke up at 7 a.m. and came in early. Today was a good performance, but hopefully for Nationals I'll have everything together because today definitely wasn't on point. My run-up was off, my jumping was off and my back was stiff. Hopefully I'll have it together in two weeks."
Martin followed by winning his second event of the competition, taking the shot put title with a throw of 19.35m (63-6). Martin, who won the hammer throw on Friday, was the only competitor to throw over 19 meters, as the NCAA's fourth-ranked shot put thrower finished just shy of his best mark of 19.63 (64-5). Martin, whose mark came on his second throw, had not thrown over 19 meters prior to the SEC meet and was successful in showing that it is a mark that he can continue to exceed.
"I'm just trying to be consistently over 19 feet so people don't think I'm a fluke," said Martin. "The first throw I wanted to take it a little easy and I kind of messed up, so the second throw I knew that I needed to come in and really hit it, and I'm just fortunate that it went that far. I've just got to go back and work hard at practice and get it out there a little bit farther."
Kerron Stewart highlighted the action on the track by racing to a time of 22.41 seconds while easily winning the 200m. Her time broke her own school record of 22.52, and broke the existing Mideast Regional and stadium records while ranking first in the NCAA and second in the world this year. Stewart has not been beaten in an individual event this season.
"It was a good performance," said Stewart. "I ran a personal best so I can't ask for anything more. I'm just being patient and hopefully my times will keep getting better."
Michelle Vaughn became Auburn's fourth winner of the meet when she took the women's triple jump crown with a meet record and stadium record of 13.54m (44-5.25) on her third jump. Vaughn, who topped her personal best of 13.42m (44-0.5), moved up to No. 2 on Auburn's all-time triple jump list while tying for the third-best mark in the NCAA this season.
"I'm pretty excited with my performance," said Vaughn. "Coach (Henry Rolle) and I worked on my approach because that has been my problem during the outdoor season and we've tried to stay consistent with my approach. Today I was on and off but on my third jump I hit it correctly and that's how I got my PR."
Ty Akins just missed joining the group of regional winners, finishing a close second in the men's 110m hurdles with a time of 13.51 seconds. Akins, who was just .03 behind the event winner, broke the school record of 13.55 set earlier this season by Shamar Sands. Akins had run a wind-aided 13.55 earlier this season, but his best wind-legal time was 13.62. His time ranks fourth best in the NCAA this season.
"I felt pretty good," said Akins. "My start was a little better than usual but in between hurdles I was a little sloppy and I hit a lot of hurdles. I finished strong and everything else felt pretty good."
Likewise, Reuben McCoy was also a runner-up in a hurdles event, finishing second in the 400m hurdles in 50.37 seconds. McCoy, ranked fifth in the NCAA this season, will be making his third straight trip to Sacramento to compete in the 400m hurdles.
Tracy Ann Rowe squeezed into the NCAA Championships by grabbing the fifth and final automatic spot in the women's 100m. Rowe shook off a poor start and rallied to finish fifth in 11.54 seconds to earn a trip to the NCAA Championships.
Danielle Gilchrist just missed an automatic qualifying spot, placing sixth in the women's 400m hurdles. Gilchrist's time of 58.26 was not an improvement on her season best of 58.10, which ranked 17th in the nation entering the regional meets. She will need to wait for the at-large spots to be announced Tuesday but all indications are that she should make the field.
Edis Elkasevic earned Auburn a point in the shot put with a mark of 17.49m (57-4.75), but finished just under a foot and a half shy of reaching the top five to qualify for the national meet.
Katalin Mate posted a season best in the discus of 48.73m (159-10) while reaching the finals, but finished in ninth place overall to fall short of advancing to Sacramento.
Felix Kiboiywo placed 11th in the finals of the men's 1500m with a time of 3:50.16. He was near the front of the pack midway through the race, but took an elbow to the stomach and had trouble catching his breath after that, fading down the stretch. Kiboiywo has an outside chance of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, but is expected to come up just a few places short of making the field.
Auburn's Automatic Qualifiers for the NCAA Championships
Ty Akins (110m Hurdles)
Jacob Dunkleberger (Hammer Throw)
Raevan Harris (High Jump)
Cory Martin (Hammer Throw/Shot Put)
Reuben McCoy (400m Hurdles)
Tracy Ann Rowe (100m)
Kerron Stewart (200m)
Donald Thomas (High Jump)
Michelle Vaughn (Triple Jump)