Four More Individuals & 2 Relays Qualify For Nationals On Final Day Of West Preliminary Rounds

    May 28, 2016

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    LAWRENCE, KAN. -- USC'S 4x400m relay set a school record and joined the women's 4x100m relay and four more individuals earning their way to the NCAA T&F Championships during the final day of the 2016 NCAA West Preliminary Rounds at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, Kan. today (May 28). During the three-day competition, the Trojans qualified 14 athletes in 16 events for the NCAA T&F Championships to be held in Eugene, Ore. from June 8-11.

    "I was pleased with the overall outcome of the NCAA first round meet," said USC Director of Track & Field Caryl Smith Gilbert. "I thought we did a good job of overcoming all of the circumstances this weekend. We were faced with severe thunderstorms, lightning, tornados, and due to a lack of hotel rooms in Lawrence we had to stay in Topeka, which was a 40-minute commute back and forth to the track. I thought we kept our composure daily with five- and six-hour rain delays. We didn't get to run a preliminary round, but we were still able to come out and win heats and advance to nationals race by race.

    "We had a few mistakes along the way, but overall just about everyone that was ranked to make it to nationals did. Our talented freshmen learned some huge lessons about nationals and next year they will be even stronger and knowledgeable about the process.

    "On the women's side it was one of the best meets of the season and we have a strong team of 10 women heading to the NCAA final round. We ran some of our best performances of the season this weekend. We are starting to put our races together. I was excited to see some PRs and everyone came out healthy.

    "Dominic Smallwood had a great PR in the long jump, and although he did not qualify, that was one of my most proud moments this weekend because he has been working very hard. On the men's side, the injuries depleted us this year and we made some decisions to redshirt some members of the team to bring them back with a strong group of freshmen and transfers next year. Everybody is getting healthy. Our young freshmen throwers are going to be working out in the weight room this summer and will be back next year. Ricky Morgan advanced and we look for some big things from him next week and this summer. We will have Just'N Thymes back next year and we will have a really strong men's team.

    "We chose not to run the relays because the way the schedule is laid out, we just do not have enough bodies and it would stretch everybody way to thin to try and run the relays and do well in their individual events. Sometimes as a coach you have to make the decisions that are best for the athlete in the long run. I'm very pleased with the outcome of the meet and I'm certain we will have a strong NCAA final in Oregon. The women are poised to have a great finish. The men we are going to do the best we can to come out with the highest score we can with the numbers we have. I'm glad to be going back to sunny California...Fight On!"

    The women's 4x400m relay team of sophomore Kendall Ellis, junior Amalie Iuel, junior Cameron Pettigrew and senior Jaide Stepter closed out the running portion of the meet for the Trojans in style by winning its heat with a school-record time of 3:26.73 to automatically advance to the NCAA Championships in the event. Their time is the fourth-fastest among college teams this season and the fifth-fastest in the world so far this outdoor season. The number one and number two times in the world came in the next heat as Arkansas ran 3:25.48 and Texas 3:25.59. USC finished third overall in the event, nearly two and one-half seconds ahead of the fourth-place team. Ellis and Iuel were credited with a combined split of 1:43.21, which was second to Texas' 1:43.15. Pettigrew was credited with a 52.10 split and Stepter with a 51.42 split.

    The day got off to a tough start as sophomore triple jumper Dominic Smallwood was pulled from the men's triple jump with a sore hamstring. He had felt the discomfort in his hamstring after the long jump last night and gave it a shot in warmups, but there was no improvement so he had to be scratched.

    Senior Tera Novy opened up the day for USC with a discus throw of 182-6 (55.62m) in her first attempt which moved her into third place in the competition and ultimately would be enough to qualify her to the NCAA Championships, finishing sixth. Her second throw went for 175-6 and her final throw went 176-1. The biggest drama in the competition was national leader Kelsey Card of Wisconsin stood in 15th place entering the final round, but was able to move up to 10th on her final throw to advance to nationals.

    USC's women's 4x100m relay team of junior Destinee Brown, sophomore Deanna Hill, senior Alexis Faulknor and senior Tynia Gaither were the first Trojans on the track. They won their heat with a time of 44.14 to automatically advance to the NCAA Championship in the event. Their time was third overall among the qualifiers.

    Freshman Nathan Bultman finished next in the men's discus throw. He opened with a sector foul, then landed a throw of 147-9 (45.04m) to move into 27th. He again fouled in his final attempt to finish 43rd overall.

    Freshman Jasmyne Graham ran in the second heat of the women's 100m HH and placed fourth with a time of 13.37 (+08). She still held the sixth and final spot to qualify on time with two heats remaining, but it was not meant to be as the second and third-place finishers in the fifth heat had a better time to bump her out and she finished 16th overall.

    The women's 200m quarterfinal was next and it was an impressive result for Hill and Gaither. First, Hill won the second heat with a PR of 22.60 (+0.7) to automatically advance to nationals. Her time also moved her from fourth to third on USC's all-time list. Gaither won the next heat with a PR of 22.61 (+1.2) to also automatically advance. Her time moved her from fifth to fourth on the school's all-time women's 200m list. The pair ended up with the second and third-fastest qualifying times.

    Next up was junior Tanya Sapa in the women's shot put. She opened with a mark of 49-1 (14.96m) and was unable to improve in her final throws, finishing 32nd in the event. She also had a mark of 48-2.75 and a foul.

    The final event of the meet was the men's shot put and the Trojans had Bultman, freshman Matthew Katnik and sophomore Nick Ponzio competing in three different flights. Bultman was first and he had fouls in all three attempts. He landed a clean throw in his final attempt, but it wasn't a mark he was pleased with so he stepped out of the ring. Next Katnik and Ponzio competed in the third and fourth flights simultaneously. Katnik opened with a mark of 56-9.50 and then improved to 60-7.75 (18.48m) which temporarily moved him into 12th. He dropped to 13th by his final throw (59-8.50) which wasn't an improvement and ended up 15th. Ponzio opened with his best mark of 62-6 (19.05m) which put him in third and he finished fifth overall. His final two throws were a foul and 61-4.25 (18.70m).

    Trojans who qualified for the NCAA Championships individually or as part of a relay team are: Destinee Brown (W-4x100m), Randall Cunningham (M-High Jump), Kendall Ellis (W-400m, 4x400m), Alexis Faulknor (W-Long Jump, 4x100m), Tynia Gaither (W-100m, 200m, 4x100m), Deanna Hill (W-100m, 200m, 4x100m), Amalie Iuel (W-400m IH, 4x400m), Adoree' Jackson (M-Long Jump), Margaux Jones (W-Long Jump), Ricky Morgan Jr. (M-400m), Tera Novy (W-Discus Throw), Cameron Pettigrew (W-4x400m), Nick Ponzio (M-Shot Put) and Jaide Stepter (W-400m IH, 4x400m).