June 10, 2006
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -
The Auburn women's track and field team won its first ever national title Saturday at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, scoring 57 points to easily outdistance Southern California, which placed second with 38.5 points. The Tigers posted All-American performances in nine events, including two individual national champions and three second-place finishers, and broke two school records during the four-day event.
For Auburn, it was the first-ever national championship in men's or women's track and field. Previously, the men's team finished second at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships and at the 1978, 1997 and 2003 Indoor Championships. The women's team had never finished higher than 14th (2002, 2003) at the Outdoor Championships or higher than seventh (2003) at the Indoor Championships.
"It's a sweet, sweet feeling," said Auburn head coach Ralph Spry. "It's a hard meet to win. A lot of things have to happen for you to win it. But our girls have been consistent all year long. I knew if we came in and did what we've done all year long, we could put up the numbers to give us a shot at being a factor here. It's real exciting."
The Tigers took all of the drama out of the meet by clinching the team title more than an hour before the meet's conclusion. Auburn ran away with the team title by consistently scoring as well as or better than expected. Only once did a Tiger place lower than her ranking entering the meet, and that one instance still resulted in a second-place finish instead of a first-place performance by Kerron Stewart in the 100m.
"We're extremely proud and very excited for our women's track and field program bringing home Auburn's first-ever national title in track and field," said Auburn Athletics Director Jay Jacobs. "You can't say enough about the efforts of our women and the leadership from coach Ralph Spry and his staff. Auburn and the Auburn family are looking forward to celebrating this title at Toomer's Corner."
joined Jovanee Jarrett
, who won the long jump Thursday, as Auburn's individual national champions. James helped Auburn to an important 1-2 finish in the 400m hurdles, breaking her own school record with a time of :54.47. Josanne Lucas
was right behind, setting a personal best of her own with a time of :55.29.
The duo initially thought they had finished second and third behind Texas' Melaine Walker, but Walker was disqualified for a lead leg violation for hooking a hurdle, bumping up Auburn's athletes one spot each.
It marked the second All-American honor of the meet for James (4x100m relay) and was the fifth of her career. At last year's NCAA meet, she posted a then personal-best time of :57.41 in the prelims but did not advance to the finals.
"I was shocked," said James after learning of the disqualification. "It's an unfortunate thing but I'll take it anyway. I went out and gave it my best and didn't hold anything back. Last year I didn't even make it to the finals, so this is a big improvement. I'm just happy I did my best."
For Lucas, it was the second top-five finish of the meet after placing fifth in Friday's 100m hurdles final. It marked her sixth career All-American award and second in the 400m hurdles, having placed fifth at last year's NCAA meet with a time of :55.59.
"I'm just happy to get points for the team," said Lucas. "It is a new personal best. Obviously I wanted to run better, but I gave it my best. It has been a long four days with six races, but it was worth it to help the team."
concluded a stellar meet with second-place finishes in both the 100m and the 200m. Stewart, who owns the world's second-fastest time this season in the 100m, placed second in that event in 11.36 seconds into a headwind behind South Carolina's surprise winner Amberly Nesbitt, who clocked an :11.34.
In the 200m, she raced to a school-record time of :22.65, but was edged by another Gamecock, Shalonda Soloman, who posted a mark of :22.62. Her mark broke the old school record of :22.66 set by Juliet Campbell in 1993, but more importantly, clinched the team title for Auburn.
Having already earned All-American honors as part of Auburn's fifth-place 4x100m relay team, Stewart became just the second Auburn female athlete to earn three All-American honors at one NCAA Outdoor Championship meet, joining Elva Goulbourne (long jump, 100m, 4x100m relay) in 2003.
Stewart was also a three-time All-American during the indoor season (60m, 200m, 4x400m relay), making her the second Auburn track and field athlete, male or female, to win six All-American honors in one year. Goulbourne also accomplished the feat in 2003.
"Right now I'm not event thinking about the individual awards," said Stewart. "I did my part to give my team the points they needed to win and I think that was most important. I was a little disappointed in the 100, but I still have a chance to come back next year. My first year at Auburn has been a good experience and I learned a lot."
Thomas, who Friday earned All-American honors in the 4x100m relay, just missed another All-American performance, placing ninth in the 200m in 23.49 seconds.
With the national title already in hand, Michelle Vaughn added to Auburn's point total with an eighth-place finish in the triple jump, earning her All-American honors as well. Vaughn posted a mark of 13.16m (43-2.25) on her second of six attempts and that mark held up for eighth place.
Vaughn, in her first season at Auburn, earned All-American honors for the first time. She placed 14th in the triple jump at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championships.
Auburn's men were well-represented by Reuben McCoy, who finished fourth in the 400m hurdles. Running in lane eight, McCoy established a new personal best with a time of 49.22 seconds. McCoy became an All-American for the second time, having finished eighth at last year's NCAA outdoor meet with a time of :49.82.
"I was looking for a little bit more, but I hit a PR, so I'm not going to complain," said McCoy. "It's back to the drawing board now and I'll just get back to basics."
McCoy's finish gave Auburn, which was redshirting three All-Americans during the outdoor season, five points and allowed the Tigers to finish tied for 40th place. But it was the women's team which stole the show.
"We thought it was going to take 45-50 points to win it and we knew we could score that if we had a good meet," said Spry. "Jovanee Jarrett in the long jump and Angela Homan in the 10k got us off to a great start Thursday and things just kind of snowballed from there. We kept building momentum, and it was just one of those weekends where you just felt it was going to happen. I just felt confident with this group that we were not going to be denied."
Auburn's 2006 Outdoor Track and Field All-Americans
Angela Homan (10,000m)
Markita James (400m hurdles, 4x100m relay)
Jovanee Jarrett (long jump, 4x100m relay)
Josanne Lucas (100m hurdles, 400m hurdles)
Kerron Stewart (100m, 200m, 4x100m relay)
Tamara Thomas (4x100m relay)
Michelle Vaughn (triple jump)
Reuben McCoy (400m hurdles)