HASTINGS, HILLIARD WIN TITLES! SO DOES WOMEN'S 4X400M RELAY!!
May 26, 2007
Gainesville, Fla. - South Carolina saw 11 athletes advance to the NCAA Championships based on top five finishes and three of its relays (women's 4x100m relay, women's 4x400m relay and men's 4x400m relay) also advanced to the NCAAs in Sacramento, Calif. June 6-9. All told, the women won six medals (three gold, one silver, two bronze) and the men won three medals (one gold, two silver). Highlights of the meet included Natasha Hastings and Thomas Hilliard both qualifying for two individual events as Hastings won both the 200m and the 400m and Hilliard won the 110m hurdles and was the silver medalist in the 400m hurdles. Both also ran legs on USC's qualifying 4x400m relays with Hastings also running a leg of the 4x100m relay that qualified for NCAAs.
The women finished as the runner-up with 62 points with Virginia Tech winning the title. In the five years of the East Region meet, the Gamecock women have won the title twice and finished as the runner-up three times. The South Carolina men tied a program-high finishing third with 42.33 points with Florida State winning the title.
"I guess under the circumstances I am more excited about the time in the 200m than the 400m because I didn't expect to double. I knew I would be in the 50s in the 400m, but didn't know about the 200m," said Hastings. Has she had a better day on the track? "To run the quality of races I ran today there is no way I've had a better day. I guess I am still in shock a bit, but I had faith the entire time. I wasn't feeling the best this morning, but God got me through it. With him on my side I can do anything."
"I'm really tired, but today was really out of my reality (winning the 110m hurdles, silver in the 400m hurdles and with 4x4)," said Hilliard. "I knew I was capable of doing those things, but I thought I would be too tired to be there in the 400m hurdles and I changed my race strategy in the 110m hurdles and I wasn't sure how I'd finish. I have a lot of confidence now going into the finals."
USC has a chance to send five others based on the final descending order list which will come out Monday.
Running the fastest time in the world in 2007 - Hastings blasted out of the blocks and won the 400m with an East Region record time of 50.23 - also setting a school and UF facility record. Her time is the best in the world this year. She won the race by almost a second and a half. The 11-year-old facility record was set by USA gold medalist Jearl Miles-Clark in 1996 (50.93) and the region record was set two year's ago by Tiandra Poteen (51.08).
Exactly 45 minutes later Hastings ran a 22.62 to win the 200m as well - just .01 off her personal best of last night (22.61 - the seventh fastest time in the world this year). It is the second straight year a Gamecock has won the 200m East Region title as Shalonda Solomon won it last year.
The women's 4x400m relay won the title, advancing to the NCAA with a time of 3:30.25. The women ran Krystal Cantey, Faraign Giles, Chiquita Martin and Hastings. The men's 4x400m relay finished second with a time of 3:06.72. The men ran Quinten Moore, Hilliard, Derron Flood and Ray Miley.
Hilliard, a former walk-on with the Carolina soccer team, won the 110m hurdles with a time of 13.83. Hilliard was third at the SEC meet two weeks ago and was sixth indoors at the NCAA Championship garnering All-American honors. It is the second year in a row a Gamecock has won the high hurdles, with sophomore Jason Richardson winning the race last year (he was redshirted this year).
Hilliard was the silver medalist last in the 400m hurdles, advancing with a time of 49.83. Jussi Heikkila ran a personal best 50.28 to finish fifth and also advance to the NCAA meet.
The women's 4x100m relay advanced to the NCAA Championship by winning the bronze medal in the finals at 44.35. South Carolina's relay featured Brandi Cross, Natasha Hastings, Faraign Giles and Chiquita Martin.
Krystal Cantey won the silver medal in the 400m hurdles - leading most of the way - with a personal best of 56.21. She advances to the NCAA meet.
Martin, a native of Anderson, S.C., won the bronze medal in the 100m hurdles with a huge personal best of 13.14 and advances to the NCAA Championship. Her former PR was 13.28. She came in seeded No. 8 into the finals.
"I figured I could run it yesterday, but I hit a hurdle. I am happy with that time thought - very happy," said Martin. "I knew what I had to do to do it."
Martin later finished sixth in the 58.30 in the 400m to finish sixth and could get an at-large bid.
Summerville's Precious Akins finished fourth in the discus at 169' 4 and advanced. She won the title last year, but has battled a serious back injury all season that kept her from practicing this week.
"She battled through it today and to advance with the season of injuries she's had - she showed what a real competitor she is," said throws coach Mike Sergent. "She has a history of gutting it out and she did that today."
Jamil James finished fifth with a personal best 46.28, chopping a half of a second off his previous PR, to qualify for the NCAA Championships. James came into the meet seeded No. 18.
The men's 4x100m relay, consisting of James, Nick Lytle, Moore and Flood, finished seventh at 40.53 and did not advance to the NCAA meet, but they came in seeded No. 16.
Cross was eighth in the 400m at 54.36 and could advance based on time.
Freshman Erik Heymann finished 12th in the javelin with a toss of 207' 10. He could advance at-large. He has a season-best throw of 223'7 when he won the bronze medal at the SEC Championship.
The Gamecocks had one large disappointment on Friday: USC's defending NCAA 200m champion will not have a chance to defend her title after all as junior Shalonda Solomon withdrew prior to the prelims of the 200m due to injury. She was the 100m and 200m NCAA East Region champion in 2006. Solomon has a strained left quad and did not run the prelims. Earlier in the day she finished 11th overall when she ran an 11.70 to finish second in her heat of the 100m.
Gamecocks Advancing to the NCAA Championships (June 6-9, Sacramento, Calif.)
Gamecocks' in the finals from Saturday's NCAA East Region Finals