USC Men And Women Take Second At Pac-12 T&F Championships

    USC's winning women's 4x400m relay team.

    May 18, 2014

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    PULLMAN, WASH. - USC won 10 more titles led by Aaron Brown's three wins which earned him the Men's Athlete of the Meet award to highlight the Trojans' final day at the 2014 Pac-12 Track & Field Championships being hosted by Washington State at Mooberry Track & Field Complex in Pullman, Wash today (May 18). Both teams finished in second place behind Oregon with the women's team scoring 145 points and the men's team scoring 99 points.

    The Trojans went into the cool and cloudy day knowing that it would be a tall order to unseed the defending champion Oregon Ducks men's and women's teams. USC would have to PR in nearly every event and they nearly did it. As it was, USC finished with 12 conference titles at the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships, more than any other team including the winning Oregon squads. USC earned 12 titles and Oregon nine and no other school had more than four champions.

    "I was extremely proud of the Trojans today, both men and women," said USC Director of Track & Field Caryl Smith Gilbert. "The meet was challenging with the weather to say the least and having to run and throw into headwinds. The conditions were very challenging, but we stepped up to the challenge and we were able to end the meet with 12 Pac-12 championships. Unfortunately Davonte Stewart had his leg tweak a little bit in the mile relay finals, but I think he is going to be okay for regionals, so that prevented us from getting 13 titles. There were so many great performances that it is hard to keep up. More than anything we had a lot of `come through' performances where it was down to the last jump or last throw and people stepped up. It was great to see Jaide Stepter run such a fast time. The way she ran the race (400m IH) with tenacity is what made me so excited and Amalie Iuel was able to score. The men and women's sprint corps came through and were able to score upwards of 40-50 points apiece. The relays executed, the 4x100m relays excecuted and ran through the zones like they were supposed to. Coach Quincy Watts did a great job of preparing the 400m group and assisting with all of the other sprinters. They were able to score very high, Vanessa Jones and Alex Rohani were able to PR. Coach Loreal Smith did a great job with the hurdlers, helping Aleec Harris, Lauren Blackburn and Jaide Stepter to Pac-12 titles. Coach Berry Shumpert came through with the jumpers and they put some numbers on the board. It was nice to see Melia Cox come out of a bit of a slump and actually run down the runway after two fouls and get a good jump in and win the women's triple jump. You know coach Dan Lange always comes through. We never have to worry about the throwers, but what they did today with Alex Collatz winning the discus on her last throw and Tera Novy PRing at least three times. Also in the hammer throw, Lauren Chambers had a season-best and Tanya Sapa had a PR to score a point. That was absolutely great. It was a great weekend for USC Track & Field and I am proud to be here. I felt a lot of pride wearing the Cardinal & Gold. I like the way people watch us and envy what we do. It is great being a part of this program. I don't like second, but I'm very happy with it. I look forward to winning championships here for a very long time. I've probably never been more excited about anything, so we will will get ready for regionals and NCAAs and be Fighting On!"

    The women's hammer throw was the first event on the day and freshman Tanya Sapa was in the first flight. She fouled in her first throw and then had a PR of 176-9 (53.88m) to move into first. Her next throw was even better, improving to 177-0 (53.94m) and finishing the first flight in second place with the conference's top nine throwers set to go in the second flight. USC had junior Alexandra Collatz and redshirt senior Lauren Chambers in the final group. They both fouled in their first attempts before Chambers landed a throw of 187-11 (57.29m) and Collatz a mark of 167-7 (51.08m). Unfortunately they both fouled in their final attempts meaning Collatz finished 12th and out of the finals, while Chambers advanced in seventh place. Sapa also advanced with the ninth-best throw in the preliminaries. Sapa made it three consecutive PRs with her first throw in the finals which went 182-11 (55.76m), now 10 feet farther than her previous best entering today. That throw also moved her into eighth place. Chambers fouled in her fourth attempt and then both Chambers and Sapa fouled in their fifth attempt, ending the final round in seventh and eighth. Sapa had a foul and finished her strong day in eighth, then Chambers unleashed a clutch season-best throw of 205-0 (62.49m) to temporarily move into second, but after the final sixth throwers had gone, Chambers finished third to earn six points and Sapa in eighth for one point. USC now had 25 points in the team competition and moved into seventh place.

    The women's triple jump started out a little dicey for the Trojan pair of senior Oluwakemi Olonade and junior Melia Cox, but they turned things around in their third jumps. Olonade had a first jump of 38-11.75/11.88m (+2.5w) and then 39-2.50/11.95m (-0.6) to stand in seventh, while Cox had two fouls in her first two attempts. Olonade then had ber best jump of the prelinaries of 40-7/12.37 (+2.8w) and Cox nailed her third attempt to the tune of 40-9/12.42 (+1.4) to finish the flight and advance to the finals in sixth and fifth respectively. Olonade fouled in her first attempt, but Cox continued to soar, taking over the event lead with a season-best jump of 42-4/12.90 (+2.3w). After an Olonade foul in her fifth attempt, Cox improved her lead with a jump of 42-8/13.00m (+1.0). Cox won with that jump and Olonade finished sixth to earn USC 13 more points.

    "When I got into the finals, I was thinking I have to go for it," said Cox. "It feels amazing, it really does. Last year I was second and I thought, `I have to come back this year and win.' That's what I did and I'm really excited."

    If the Trojan women hadn't already gotten everyone's attention, they sure did when the 4x100m relay team of senior Loudia Laarman, senior Jessica Davis, sophomore Alexis Faulnor and sophomore Tynia Gaither blew by Oregon to win with the third-fastest time in school history of 43.21. That time is also third in the country this season. Gaither got the stick slightly behind, but sped by Oregon's anchor to a convincing win, 43.21 to 43.77. After the 10 points in this event and the 13 in the triple jump, USC had moved into second place with 48 points. USC's time also set a Pac-12 Championship meet record, Mooberry Track record and is third-fastest all-time in the Pac-12 with all of the top three being USC quartets. USC's women have won the 4x100m relay 10 times since 2000.

    Riding the momentum that the women's team had created, the men's 4x100m relay team of senior Aleec Harris, senior Aaron Brown, junior BeeJay Lee and junior Davonte Stewart stormed around the track in a season-best time of 39.43 to win and earn 10 points. The time ranks seventh in the country and is USC's fastest men's 4x100m relay time since 2005 when they ran 38.89 at the Mt. SAC Relays.

    Next for the Trojans was the women's 100m HH with senior Lauren Blackburn and the junior Cox. Blackburn ran away from the field despite the second and third-place finishers setting PRs to win the event with a season wind-legal best of 13.08 (+0.4) which also broke the Moobery Track record she set yesterday. Cox finished sixth, .003 out of fifth with a time of 13.58 (+0.4), also a season wind-legal best. The pair teamed up to earn 13 more points for USC and push the team total to 61 points.

    "It feels great," said Blackburn after her victory. "Four years - I've been second, third and fifth. It feels good to go out my senior year and get first. I'm just happy that I could add to the team total."

    Harris broke the Mooberry Track record in the men's 110m HH yesterday and broke it again today with a winning time of 13.35 (+1.0) to earn 10 points. His winning time was just .003 off his PR and set the Pac-12 meet record formerly held by Trojan Brendan Ames at 13.39 in the 2011 preliminary round.

    The USC women then picked up 12 more points as junior Vanessa Jones was third with a PR of 52.39, junior Akawkaw Ndipagbor was fifth with a time of 53.49 and senior Ashley Liverpool was seventh with a time of 53.81. Jones' time bettered her sixth-place standing on USC's all-time list in the 400m race. USC now had 73 points and opened up a 25-point lead on the third-place team, but was still 47 behind the Oregon women.

    Freshman Alexander Rohani was next in the men's 400m race and he had a PR of 46.68 to take fourth and earn the USC men's team five more points and into second place with 54 points.

    Davis, Gaither and Faulknor then competed in the women's 100m dash and finished 2-4 in the event to earn 19 points. Davis got out slow and finished strong to take second at 11.39 (+0.1), while Gaither was third with a time of 11.44 (+0.1) and Faulknor fourth with a time of 11.53 (+0.1). USC's women now had 92 points in team competition, already 11 more than last season at the Pac-12 Championships.

    The men's 100m race was next and Brown won with a time of 10.31 (-1.0), despite a very slow start which saw him having to make up quite a bit of ground in the second half of the race. The defending champion Lee took third with a time of 10.45 and senior Terence Abram placed sixth with a time of 10.63. USC picked up 19 more points in the event. Brown also won the Pac-12 100m title in 2012 and Lee won it in 2013. In fact, a USC athlete has won the event eight of the last 10 seasons.

    "Not my best race," said Brown after the win. "I had a poor start, had to stay composed, stay true to my technique and listened to my training. I knew I had the speed to come get it at the end and I was able to come away with a win, so I was pretty happy with that. I put 10 points on the board for my team and was able to regain my title from two years ago."

    Sophomore Jaide Stepter then blazed to a winning time of 56.99 in the women's 400m IH, while freshman Amalie Iuel took fifth with a time of 58.92. Stepter moved from eighth to fourth on USC's all-time 400m IH list and into sixth place in the country entering this week's competition. She also broke the Mooberry Track record of 57.05 which was set in 1994 and became the first Trojan to win the event at the conference meet since Shalina Clarke in 2008. The pair of Stepter and Iuel earned 14 more points for the Trojan women to push the team total to 106 points.

    "The whole season I have been working on my step patterns, trying to run a smooth race" said Stepter. "I've run so much faster and stronger this year, I just wanted to put together my step pattern. Finally this race I did it. It is a huge PR and I'm really happy about it. I am so blessed because last season I didn't even reach the finals and then this season to say I am a Pac-12 Champion is awesome. Part of it is for myself, but part of it was trying to get some team points. I just wanted to help them as much as I could."

    The men's high jump then finished and seniors Herb Dew and Viktor Fajoyomi teammed together to earn USC four points. Dew tied for fifth with a clearance of 6-9.00 (2.06m). He was clean through that height, but missed on all three attempts at 6-11. Fajoyomi also cleared 6-9.00 (2.06m), but he had misses at 6-7 and 6-9 before bowing out at 6-11 to finish tied for eighth. Dew scored 3.5 points and Fajoyomi 0.5 points.

    The women's 200m race was next and Gaither placed third with a time of 23.07 (-1.6), Davis was fourth with a time of 23.46 (-1.6) and Jones was sixth with a time of 23.81 (-1.6). The trio gained USC 14 more points and now the Trojan women had 120 points, securely in second place.

    The men's team entered the 200m dash in second place, but their lead was only 6.75 points over third-place Washington in the team competition. Enter Brown, Stewart and Lee. Brown won his third title of the day, second individual title, with a time of 20.26 (-2.1) to earn 10 points. Right behind him in second was Stewart with a time of 20.83 (-2.1) and Lee finished fifth with a time of 21.01 (-2.1). The three runners scored 22 points in the event to give the Trojans 99 team points and extend its lead over third-place Washington to 28.75 points. USC won the men's 200m dash for the eighth time in the last 12 seasons.

    The men's triple jump finished next and junior Allen Williams placed ninth with a best jump of 46-9/14.25 (+2.2). He entered the finals be having a best jump of 46-1.50/14.06m (+1.5) and had his best leap in the fifth round.

    The women's discus competition was next to finish. Freshman Tera Novy won the first flight with a PR of 176-1 (53.76m) and had secured a spot in the finals as the second flight of the top throwers had only seven competitiors. Collatz had a best of 180-1 (54.90m) to come out of the second flight in second place overall and Novy was in sixth. Novy then established a new personal best with a throw of 179-1 (54.60m) to finish fourth overall and moved her into third place on USC's all-time women's discus throw list, right behind her teammate Collatz. Collatz had an improvement to 180-9 (55.11m) in her fourth throw, but remained in second place entering her final throw. Collatz came up big in her final attempt and she knew it and when mark was posted, she had thrown 184-3 (56.17m) to take the lead by three feet over Valarie Allman of Stanford, the only competitor left. Allman had a great final throw also and there was an anxious moment before it was announced she had throw 181-5, her best throw of the day, but Collatz had secured the Pac-12 title, the first-ever at the conference meet by a Trojan. Collatz and Novy teammed up to score 15 points in the event.

    The final events of the meet were the women's and men's 4x400m relays. The Trojan women ran a team of Ndipagbor, Liverpool, Jones and Gaither and they cruised to victory with a time of 3:34.72 to earn 10 points. Ndipagbor gave the Trojans the lead and then Liverpool extended it with a split of 52.9 and the Trojans never looked back. It was USC's sixth title for the women's team on the final day.

    The final race of the meet was the men's 4x400m relay and the Trojans ran a team of Rohani, Stewart, junior Myles Andrews and Brown. Rohani ran a strong leg and gave the baton to Stewart in first place, but it was evident early that his left hamstring was acting up and he made it around the track, but the Trojans had dropped into last in its heat. Andrews could not make up much ground and by the time Brown got the baton, the race was pretty much over for the Trojans who finished with a time of 3:17.88 to take 10th.

    The Trojans ended the meet strong, with the women's team scoring a meet-high 127 points on the final day compared to Oregon's 112. The USC men were able to score 70 points on the final day, second only to Oregon's 93 points. USC also established four Mooberry Track records (Brown - 200m, Blackburn - 100m HH, Harris 110m HH & Stepter - 400m IH) and one Pac-12 Championship meet record (Harris - 110m HH).