McCullough Wins Hammer Title, Joins Jackson & Ponzio As All-Americans|
June 10, 2015
EUGENE, ORE. - Conor McCullough won the men's hammer throw title, Adoree' Jackson took fifth in the men's long jump and Nick Ponzio finished eighth in the men's shot put during the first day of action at the 2015 NCAA Track & Field Championships hosted by Oregon at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. today (June 10) . The trio combined to score 15 points and move USC into third place in the team competition with four more opportunities to score in Friday's men's finals.
The senior McCullough was the first Trojan to compete and he made quick work of the field en route to winning the 2015 NCAA hammer throw title. He took the lead in his first attempt with a mark of 233-5 (71.15m) and never looked back. His second throw of 243-5 (74.21m) would have won the competition by nearly nine feet, but he was not done yet. His third throw was his best mark of the season of 252-4 (76.91m) which advanced him to the finals in first place and was the winning throw by 17-feet, 7-inches. His final three throws were 243-1 (74.11m), a sector foul and 242-8 (73.97m). McCullough ended up having the four farthest throws in the competition, with 2014 NCAA champion Mattias Tayala of Kent State taking second with a throw of 234-9 (71.56m).
"It's been a long journey," said McCullough. "I've had a lot of support from the staff at USC, Coach Caryl (Smith Gilbert) and Coach Dan (Lange); and I'm glad it worked out. This was definitely the goal. You never know what's going to happen. I stayed healthy and it's great. It was a good mark and I'm looking forward to USAs."
McCullough became the third Trojan male to win the NCAA hammer title and first since Bengt Johannson in 1997. The other Trojan to win was all-time NCAA leader and USC school record-holder Balazs Kiss (1993-96). McCullough's mark was the third-farthest by a Trojan in the finals, trailing only Kiss's 268-10 in 1995 and 265-3 in 1996. McCullough also earned USC 10 points in the team competition and the lead after one scored event. USC has now had at least one man or woman win an NCAA track and field individual title in 19 of the last 24 seasons.
The freshman Jackson began his day in the men's long jump with a leap of 24-10/7.57m (+1.9) to put himself in seventh place midway through the first round. In his second jump, Jackson had a PR of 25-11.50/7.91m (+1.9) to temporarily move into second place. It also moved him into an eighth-place tie (in meters) on USC's all-time list. He became the first Trojan to crack the school's top 10 in the long jump since 2003. He jumped 25-0.50/7.63m (+1.1) in his third jump and advanced to the finals in fifth place. Jackson did not improve in his first jump of the finals, going 24-6.50/7.48m (+1.0) to remain fifth with two jumps remaining. He then jumped 24-11.25/7.60m (+2.4w) and remained fifth with the final-round jumps remaining. Jackson's final attempt went for 24-10.50.7.58m (+1.0) and he finished fifth overall and earned first-team All-America honors. He also earned the Trojans four points in the team competition.
Jackson, who was a Freshman All-American last fall on the Trojan football team as a 3-way player (cornerback-wide receiver-returner), became the first USC football letterman to earn track All-America honors in an individual event since Sultan McCullough did so in the 100m in 2000 and the first Trojan football letterman to be a field event All-American since long jumper Luther Hayes in 1961. The last Trojan football lettermen to earn All-American status in any event were McCullough, Kareem Kelly and Darrell Rideaux as part of USC's 4x100m relay in 2002. The most recent USC football player to earn track All-American honors was hammer thrower Trey Henderson in 2011 (he did not letter in football). Jackson's fifth place finish was the highest in an individual event by a USC football letterwinner since Ed Hervey placed fifth in the 200m in 1995. The last Trojan to score in the long jump at nationals was Allen Simms, who was seventh in 2003, and the last to score higher was Ed Tave, who placed fourth in 1984.
Ponzio, also a freshman, had a mark of 62-7.75 (19.09m) in his first attempt in the men's shot put which would advance him to the finals in ninth and earn him three more throws. His second attempt went for 62-5.25 (19.04m) and third for 62-7.25 (19.08m). He would need to PR to score as the person standing in eighth had thrown 63-8.75 (19.42m) which tied his best career mark entering today. Ponzio did PR in his first attempt of the finals, throwing 64-1 (19.53m) to move into sixth place and better his sixth-place standing on USC's all-time list. He then had a mark of 62-6 (19.05m) in his fifth attempt and remained sixth entering the final round. His final throw went for 63-1.50 (19.24m) and he fell to eighth as two athletes had their best mark in their final throws. Ponzio earned USC a point in the team competition and became a first-team All-American in the shot put. Ponzio was the only freshman to reach the NCAA Championships, one of two underclassmen to make the finals and the only one to score. The last Trojan to score in the men's shot put was Noah Bryant, who won the title in 2007 with a throw of 65-9.
The first running event of the day was the men's 4x100m relay. The team of senior BeeJay Lee, junior Andre De Grasse, junior Just'N Thymes and senior Bryan Mercado took third in the first heat with a time of 39.09. The top two from each heat, plus the next two best times would advance to the finals. After the second heat was over, they still owned the top next best time. The third heat's winner had a time of 39.11, so the Trojans were safely on to Friday's finals. When the three heats were completed, USC's time of 39.09 was fifth among the qualifiers.
Freshman Marquis Morris was the next Trojan to run when he competed in the second heat of the men's 110m HH. He was going to need to have a big PR as the third and fourth-place finishers in the first heat had a time of 13.56, .21 seconds faster than his best time. Morris took eighth in his heat and 21st overall with a time of 13.93 (+1.1). He was in the thick of the pack, but clipped the fifth hurdle which ended his chance of setting the needed PR in the event to advance. Morris was one of two freshmen to advance to the NCAA semifinals in the 110m HH and neither made it to the finals.
De Grasse ran in the first heat of the men's 100m dash and took second with a time of 9.98 (+1.7) to automatically advance to Friday's final. It turned out to be second among the qualifiers. Lee ran in the second heat of the men's 100m and took fourth with a time of 10.10 (+0.9). That time ended up 10th overall and he did not advance to the finals.
Next was freshman Ricky Morgan in the men's 400m semifinals. He took sixth in the second heat and 21st overall with a time of 46.75. He was one of just two freshmen in the semifinals and had the best time in the field for the first-year runners.
Another freshman Robert Ford had a time of 1:48.67 in the men's 800m semifinals to take fourth in his heat and finish tied for 14th overall. He was one of just three freshmen nationally to reach the NCAA Championships in the event and he had the fastest time of that group.
De Grasse then ran in the first heat of the men's 200m dash and seemed to find another gear down the stretch to win pulling away with a time of 20.09 (+1.7). That would turn out to be third among the qualifiers. Lee took fourth in the final heat with a time of 20.31 (+2.0) and just missed advancing to the finals with the third-fastest non-automatic qualifier. His time ended up being the eighth fastest of the day, but one of the automatic qualifiers had a slower time than Lee. Lee ended up missing the finals in both the 100m and 200m by a just .01 seconds, despite logging very strong times.
Tomorrow the women's NCAA semifinals will be contested with the Trojans having Melia Cox and Dior Hall in the 100m HH, Alexis Faulknor, Deanna Hill and Ky Westbrook in the 100m, Kendall Ellis and Vanessa Jones in the 400m, Amalie Iuel and Jaide Stepter in the 400m IH, Hill and Westbrook in the 200m, plus the 4x100m and 4x400m relays in action.