South Carolina Advances Eight Individuals and Four Relays to NCAA Championships
May 30, 2009
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Sophomore Johnny Dutch earned his first NCAA Regional title and South Carolina advanced eight individuals and all four relays to the national championships at the conclusion of competition Saturday at the NCAA East Region Championships. The Gamecock men finished second overall and the women finished sixth at the meet held at Irwin Belk Track on the campus of North Carolina A&T.
"Our goal is to do the very best we can compete, and that's what our kids did this weekend," South Carolina head coach Curtis Frye said. "We felt like we could be top five on the men's side, and to be second in the greatest region in the country sets us up to be great. Our women stepped up to finish sixth. We wanted to continue being top 10 in the region. Everyone put it on the line on our women's team; I can't say that no one didn't. The Gamecock women stepped up today, and we'll go to nationals and do it again. Liza Todd started it with her performance Friday, and the rest caught on."
Dutch, who holds the nations top time and is ranked No. 3 in the world in the 400-meter hurdles, continued his unbeaten streak in May with the title Saturday at 48.70. The sophomore has continued to perform well this season after missing the 2008 outdoor championships with a hamstring injury before bouncing back to place fifth at the U.S. Olympic Trials last summer.
Carolina entered the meet with three hurdlers ranked in the top five in the region in the 110-meter hurdles, and two earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships as Jason Richardson took second at 13.51 and Booker Nunley placed third at 13.63. Sophomore Johnny Dutch placed seventh overall at 14.27, but likely will earn an at-large bid to nationals with his season-best time of 13.68 ranked 13th nationally.
"Our freshman hurdler stepped up, showed that SEC's wasn't a fluke and got third," Frye said. "Jason Richardson ran a safe race today. We just needed him to make it to nationals, so we played him safe this weekend so that he can go out and defend his title in the 110m hurdles in two weeks."
An hour later, Dutch competed in his signature event, taking the title at a new facility record. His success thus far mirrors that of teammate Jason Richardson in 2008 who swept the 110-meter hurdles at SEC's and regionals before earning his first national title at the outdoor championships.
Not long after Dutch's win, the men's pole vault concluded competition with Carolina freshman Marvin Reitze earning silver medal honors to qualify for his first NCAA event. Reitze successfully cleared a season-best 17-03.00 (5.26m) to claim second and move to fourth on the Carolina all-time list. Junior Elliott Haynie placed seventh at 16-11.00 (5.16m) but as the nation's No. 5 ranked vaulter he will likely earn an at-large bid to nationals. Freshman Matt Shuler tied for 17th at 16-01.25 (4.91m).
"To finish number two in the region, Marvin Reitze stepped up," Frye said. "We have two pole vaulters that made nationals which is excellent."
The men's 4x100m relay team of Johnathan Hancock, Antonio Sales, Quentin Moore and Obakeng Ngwigwa finished third to qualify at 39.13, the fifth-fastest time in program history. In the 4x400m relay, Moore and Ngwigwa teamed with Dutch and Aaron Anderson to place third overall at 3:05.51.
Sales then competed in the 200m dash where he earned his first outdoor championships bid with a third place finish at 20.80.
"Antonio Sales had a lot of pressure to come through here on his home track," Frye said of the Chapel Hill native who ran with his club at Irwin Belk Track. "He got third and is on his way to nationals, so I couldn't be prouder."
The women had success in the relays as well with the 4x100m relay missing out on the regional title by one-thousandth of a second with a time of 43.65. Lakya Brookins, Shayla Mahan, Gabrielle Glenn and Breehana Jacobs ran the relay and finished behind Florida State's 43.64, the narrowest of margins for the Carolina team composed of three sophomores and one freshman.
Brandi Cross advanced in the open 400m dash with a fourth-place finish at 52.92. Two of her relay teammates also advanced in the 100m dash as Lakya Brookins and Gabrielle Glenn will compete at the NCAA Championships as well. Brookins, the 2009 NCAA indoor champion in the 60m dash, advanced to nationals in the 100m for the first time after finishing second at 11.33. Glenn advanced for the second consecutive year after finishing fifth at 11.64 despite entering the meet ranked 15th in the region.
Sophomore Michael Zajac came into the meet ranked eighth in the region and improved his spot to place sixth overall in the hammer throw at 206-11 (63.08m). Despite missing the automatic bid to the championships in Fayetteville (Ark.), Zajac will await word to see if he has earned an at-large bid for the first time in the hammer throw. He earned All-America honors indoors this season with a ninth place finish in the weight throw at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
Freshman Stacee Roberts claimed 22nd in the women's shot put with a toss of 54-10.50 (13.98m), capping a great freshman season for the thrower from Summerville. Junior Jeff Merkt claimed 17th in the discus throw at 157-01 (47.89m).
"We have the best training staff," Frye said. "We only have 10 days before we go to NCAA's, so we have to be healthy. John Kasik, our director of sport medicine, came to help out our athletic trainer Tina Tubbs and was wonderful with us. Associate AD Charles Waddell came and gave the support that our kids needed, and our kids lay everything on the line when they see that kind of support from the administration at South Carolina."
Declarations for the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships will be announced Tuesday, June 2. The championships will be held June 10-13 at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Ark.