Gamecocks Post Top 20 Finishes at NCAA Indoor Championships
March 14, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Demetria Washington. Shalonda Solomon. Natasha Hastings. The Barber Twins. Aleen Bailey. Amberly Nesbitt. Lashinda Demus. Mechelle Lewis and Alexis Joyce.
Add Lakya Brookins to that list of Gamecock greats.
The South Carolina sophomore lined up for the finals of the 60m dash with limited expectations but high hopes in her second appearance at the NCAA Indoor Championships. After taking eighth in the preliminary round at 7.34 running at the brand new Gilliam Indoor Track on the campus of Texas A&M University, Brookins lined up in lane eight for the final and made Gamecock history. Her time of 7.13 - broken down to 7.123 - solidified Brookins as the first NCAA champion in the 60-meter dash in Carolina history, shattering the three-year old school record mark of 7.21 held by Nesbitt and Solomon in the process.
"I was nervous (prior to the race)," Brookins recalled. "Every bone in my body was shaking. I tried to talk to myself and stay calm. I tried as hard as I could not to move before the gun went off. I just did what my teammates and coaches told me to do which is to run my race and not worry about anyone else but to just concentrate on my lane and only my lane."
Brookins not only ran her race, she ran the race of the season. At a 7.13 clip, the Atlanta native ran the second fastest time in the world this year. She blazed out of the blocks and never looked back, racing an entire hair length ahead of second place Alexandria Anderson of Texas who finished over one-tenth (0.10) of a second behind at 7.24. Brookins turned around and jumped up and down after glancing at the board and seeing that she won the NCAA title, unable to contain her excitement.
"My heart jumped!" Brookins said. "All I remember is the finish line. I don't remember anything in the middle. I only remember the beginning and the end. It still hasn't hit me yet!"
An All-American in the event last year, Brookins placed 10th in 2008 but moved up to the top of the record stand this year with a time that only stands behind professional sprinter Carmelita Jeter's 7.11 run at the Aviva Grand Prix on Feb. 21. Now Brookins awaits the time that she can sit down and talk with the former Gamecocks that have started the tradition of strong sprinters since coach Curtis Frye took over the program.
"I'm waiting to talk to all of them," Brookins said. "I'm really good friends with all of them - Shalonda, Amberly, the Barber twins and a lot of girls that were here that I look up to. I try to do the best I can. I'm hoping I made them proud today."
Another Gamecock made the podium early Saturday as men's sophomore Johnny Dutch ran the best race of his career, blazing to the finish line at a personal best 7.71 to earn bronze medal honors in the 60m hurdles in his first appearance at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Seeded 10th heading into the championships, Dutch took third in the prelims yesterday at 7.79, tying his career best before taking the track and placing third again Saturday.
"I feel blessed," Dutch said. "God gave me this opportunity. This time last year I was watching it on TV with my teammates, so just to be here is crazy. I just wanted to make it to the finals and I did. Whichever place I came in I would just give it 110 percent. All I can do is be satisfied right now."
The 7.71 moves Dutch to sixth in the South Carolina record books in the event. The All-American certificate is the first in his career as the sophomore earned six points for the Gamecocks in the overall team standings, the first scorer at the meet for either the men's or women's team. The time is also the fifth fastest collegiate time this year, behind marks that include fellow Gamecock Jason Richardson's 7.58 that officially will go down as the fastest collegiate mark in the 2009 season after no runners this weekend were able to eclipse the mark. Richardson did not compete at the championships due to a recurring hamstring injury.
"It means a lot to me because I've been doing hurdles for a long, long time," Dutch said. "To make it this far has been a great achievement for myself. To be able to represent South Carolina with the greats that have run and with Jason not here, I had to represent. This race is dedicated to God, my mom and the tradition and legacy that we have at South Carolina."
Michael Zajac placed ninth in the men's weight throw with a toss of 67-11.75 (20.72m), a strong performance by the redshirt sophomore in his first appearance at the national meet. Zajac earned his first All-America certificate, giving the Gamecock men six overall on the night. The six men's All-Americans marks the most men's indoor All-Americans in a single season under Coach Frye, surpassing the five that have been earned a few times prior.
The women's 4x400m relay team took the track in the last event of the day on the women's side. Running a team of Brandi Cross, Gabrielle Glenn, Breehana Jacobs and Porche Byrd, the Gamecocks came into the event with the nation's top time after winning the SEC title at 3:33.50. In a tightly contested race, the home team Texas A&M won the event as South Carolina came in fifth at 3:36.61.
The South Carolina women finished the day in 12th place overall after earning 14 points - 10 from Brookins and four from the relay team. It marks Carolina's 12th top 20 finish in the 13 seasons that Curtis Frye has led the program. The Gamecock men tied for 20th overall with 11 points - six from Dutch and five from the relay. It is the men's first top 20 finish since taking ninth in 2005. The Gamecocks ended with a total of 12 All-Americans over the two day meet, six on each side.
South Carolina opens the outdoor season this weekend with an annual trip to Myrtle Beach to participate in the Shamrock Invitational. The meet hosted by Coastal Carolina will run March 20-21.
SOUTH CAROLINA MEN'S ALL-AMERICANS
SOUTH CAROLINA WOMEN'S ALL-AMERICANS