May 27, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -
The Auburn men's and women's track and field teams posted nine automatic qualifying marks and Markita James, Josanne Lucas and Kerron Stewart won individual events Saturday during the final day of the Mideast Regional Championships. The Tigers now have 10 athletes automatically qualified in 11 events for the NCAA Championships June 7-10 in Sacramento, while others may still advance by earning an at-large spot in the field.
Auburn's women finished second in the race for the regional team title with 77 points, finishing behind LSU which scored 95.5 points. The Auburn men's team finished tied for 20th place with 13 points.
In addition to the automatic qualifiers, other Auburn athletes may advance to the NCAA Championships by earning one of the at-large spots in the field. After the top five athletes from each of the four regions are rewarded as automatic qualifiers, the committee will place the next seven finishers, based on regional finish, in each event into the national at-large pool. The at-large athletes are then ranked in order of their best performance of the year, including the regional meet, and the committee will begin filling the remaining open spots from the top of the at-large list until the maximum number of 544 competitors is reached.
"The mission coming in was to do well as a team but our primary goal was to qualify for NCAAs," said head coach Ralph Spry. "The people who should have got through (to the national championships) did get through. We had no big let downs. It's been a long, tough season, and I feel fortunate that we got everyone through. With the people we have on the women's side, we should have a very potent team at the NCAAs."
Markita James broke her own school and Mideast Regional records in the 400m hurdles, racing to victory in a time of 54.54 seconds. James' time ranks her third in the world this year and first in the NCAA. She broke her previous school record of :55.40 that she set at the Yellow Jacket Invitational, and her Mideast Regional record of :56.25 that she set during Friday's prelims.
"I just tried to run like I did yesterday - attack the first three hurdles, relax on the back stretch and bring it home strong," said James. "It means a lot to break meet records on back-to-back days. My coach (Henry Rolle
) has been with me through thick and thin. He has taught me well, and it has paid off. I'm looking forward to nationals. It should be a good competition."
Kerron Stewart, the SEC champion in the 100m, also won the 100m at the Mideast Regional. Stewart won the 100m, coming from behind after a slow start to win in 11.26 seconds into a headwind. Stewart also competed in the 200m, but did not run full speed to avoid injury and finished eighth in :24.71. Stewart ran in the race to be eligible for the NCAA Championships, and is a lock to receive an at-large bid with the NCAAs sixth-best time this season.
"This meet was just to get me ready for the NCAA Championships," said Stewart. "It was ok. I'm ready to go."
Josanne Lucas, the SEC and Penn Relays champion in the 100m hurdles, kept her winning streak alive in that event with a winning time of :13.18 into a slight headwind. She also qualified in the 400m hurdles, placing second behind James with a season-best time of 55.73 seconds, which ranks fourth in the NCAA.
"Coming into the meet, my main objective was to qualify and make some technical improvements," said Lucas. "I did that, so I'm happy."
Reuben McCoy qualified in the 400m hurdles, setting a new personal best with a time of 49.47 seconds to finish second behind national leader Micheal Tinsley of Jackson State, who won in :48.63. McCoy, whose mark is the sixth best in Auburn history and ranks No. 2 in the NCAA this year, surpassed his previous best of :49.82 that he set at last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships.
"Reuben had a tremendous performance," said Spry. "He is really hitting his stride and is peaking at just the right time as we head to the national championships."
In the men's 110m hurdles, Ty Akins punched his ticket to Sacramento with a fifth-place finish. Akins, who ran what would have been a school-record time of :13.64 yesterday if not for the wind, clocked a :13.97 into a headwind in the final. Shamar Sands, who had a sore leg after yesterday's prelims, finished the race in 18.21 seconds so that he would be eligible to earn an at-large spot in the NCAA Championships. Sands' time of :13.72 in Friday's prelims gives him a strong chance of earning a spot.
The 4x100m relay team of Tamara Thomas, Jovanee Jarrett, James and Stewart placed a close second with a time of :43.73, finishing just behind LSU (:43.68) despite a strong close by Stewart on the anchor leg, and just ahead of Tennessee (:43.77).
"Markita James had an outstanding performance in the 400m hurdles, Josanne Lucas is running very well in the 100m hurdles and Kerron Stewart showed she is one of the best sprinters in the world," said Spry. "They've been there for us all year long and have provided leadership all year long and i don't see that changing down the stretch.
Katalin Mate earned a spot in Sacramento by placing third in the discus with a personal-best mark of 52.98 (173-10). Mate's throw came on her third attempt and surpassed her previous season best of 52.77m (173-1).
Michelle Vaughn was Auburn's final automatic qualifier on Saturday, placing second in the triple jump with a personal-best leap of 13.30m (43-7.75). Vaughn's mark, which came on her sixth and final attempt, ranks third in Auburn history and surpasses her previous best of 13.01m (42-8.25). Jarrett advanced to the finals of the triple jump, but was not an automatic qualifier, finishing ninth with a mark of 12.41m (40-8.75).
Ronda Gullatte just missed automatically qualifying in both the discus and the hammer throw, although she may earn an at-large spot in the hammer. She finished sixth in the hammer with a mark of 57.94m (190-1), and was seventh in the discus with a throw of 49.77 (163-3).
Tamara Thomas also just missed a qualifying spot, placing sixth in the 200m finals with a time of :23.71.
Jordan Davis was 10th in the men's 1500m with a time of 3:54.12, which was not as quick as his time in the prelims of 3:48.83.
A list of athletes who have automatically qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships June 7-10 in Sacramento follows.
NCAA Championships Automatic Qualifiers*
Ty Akins (110m hurdles)
Angela Homan (10,000m)
Markita James (400m hurdles, 4x100m relay)
Jovanee Jarrett (Long jump, 4x100m relay)
Josanne Lucas (100m hurdles, 400m hurdles)
Katalin Mate (Discus)
Reuben McCoy (400m hurdles)
Kerron Stewart (100m, 4x100m relay)
Tamara Thomas (4x100m relay)
Michelle Vaughn (triple jump)
* Other Auburn athletes may qualify for the NCAA Championships once the at-large spots are determined.