June 18, 2012
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By Miquel Jacobs
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Freshman Erika Rucker and incoming student-athlete Dondre Echols both earned bids to the IAAF World Junior Championships after their top performances at the USA Junior National Championships that were held at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex on the campus of the University of Indiana over the weekend.
The IAAF World Junior Championships will be held July 10-15 at Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, Spain.
Rucker will represent the United States in international competition for the first time after taking second overall in the 400-meter dash. The SEC Indoor Freshman Runner of the Year and three-time All-American hit a personal best of 52.56 in Saturday's prelims before hitting an even faster mark in Sunday's finals to take second at 52.27. In addition to competing individually in the 400-meter dash, Rucker will also serve as a member of the USA 4x400-meter relay team at the event.
"I was very relieved," Rucker said of hitting a personal best and qualifying to compete at the World Junior Championships. "This is my first time making it to World Juniors. I knew going into (Sunday) that I was ranked first with the top time in the prelims. I just wanted to get at least second in the final because the top two make it in the individual events. I didn't expect (to run two PR's), especially in the prelims. I was surprised about that, but after I ran that I figured in the finals I could go a little faster. It felt good."
"Erika ran a great race," assistant coach Ron Garner said. "She was very relaxed all weekend, loosened up and PR'd in both rounds. In the final, she moved through 200 meters well and was comfortable coming home. She competed all the way through. It was a great race for everyone involved, and Erika and the 4x4 should be a big threat internationally."
Echols, an incoming freshman from Temple Hill, Md., will also travel to Barcelona after winning the men's 110-meter hurdles at 13.56. The Potomac High School graduate dramatic victory in the high hurdles was a positive sign for the future collegiate as his time of 13.56 is just .03 seconds shy of the 13.59 that was needed by Andrew Riley of Illinois to win the NCAA Outdoor Championship two weeks ago in the event.
"(Qualifying for world juniors) feels good," Echols said after the race. "I'm happy I did it and didn't let anybody down. They've all supported me to come out here, and I made it happen."
Another incoming freshman, Olivia Hassler of Allentown, Pa., competed in the women's javelin throw and placed 13th overall at 38.61m (126-08).
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