Track & Field
    USC Advances 8 More Athletes & 2 Relay Teams To Nationals

    Reggie Wyatt running with the baton and the lead as the men's 4x400m relay team advanced to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Ia.

    May 26, 2012

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    AUSTIN, TEXAS - USC had eight more individuals and two relay teams advanced to the NCAA Championships during the final day of action (May 26) at the NCAA Preliminary Rounds hosted by Texas at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas. After dual three-day regional competitions (Austin & Jacksonville, Fla.) which whittled down the NCAA field from 96 to 24 in each event (12 from each region), the Trojans have qualified 17 individuals in 18 events, as well as the women's 4x100m and the men's 4x400m relay which will compete at the NCAA Championships held in Des Moines, Ia. from June 6-9.

    The Trojans began the day with four athletes entered in the women's hammer throw, with the top 16 finishers after three throws advancing to the finals with three more throws awarded to those competitors. The top 12 throwers would advance to the NCAA Championships. Redshirt sophomore Lauren Chambers was up first in the second of three flights and she had a best throw of 192-4 (58.63m) which put her in seventh place with the final group of the top 16 seeded athletes yet to throw. When the third flight was completed Chambers ended up in 21st place.

    The final flight was a great one for the Trojans, but it was definitely not without drama. The West Region is stacked in the women's hammer throw with the top seven throwers in the country. Redshirt senior Marissa Minderler was first up and she landed a clean throw of 210-1 (64.04m) in her first attempt to put her in good shape. That mark was her best throw in her first attempts and sent her into the finals in sixth place. Redshirt senior Jade Niemeyer was the second Trojan in the flight and she threw 199-1 (60.69m) which was going to be right around the cut, but probably in. In her next throw she removed all doubt launching a PR of 208-0 (63.40m) which ended up being the seventh-best throw entering the finals. Unfortunately for Niemeyer, in her third attempt she aggravated her sore left hamstring and would be done for the day and have to pass on her final three attempts. Niemeyer's throw moved her into sixth place on USC's all-time list, dropping Chambers to seventh.

    The real drama came for sophomore Jenny Ozorai who ranks fourth in the country in the event, but fouled on her first two attempts. That meant that not only would she have to land a legal throw, but it was going to have to be at least 60.32 meters our she would not be going back to the NCAA Championships where she finished sixth as a freshman. To add to the drama for Ozorai, there was a delay as Amanda Bingson of UNLV set the meet record with a throw of 233-1 (71.04m) and they had to document the throw before the competition could continue. After a long chat with throws coach Dan Lange, Ozorai calmly entered the ring and nailed a throw of 218-6 (66.61m) to move into fourth place and for all intent and purposes on to nationals. None of the three Trojan women improved in the finals, but they all advanced to the NCAA Championships with Ozorai finishing fourth, Minderler seventh and Niemeyer eighth.

    The USC women's 4x100m relay team of sophomore Loudia Laarman, senior Aareon Payne, freshman Akawkaw Ndipagbor and sophomore Jessica Davis were the first Trojans on the track. They would need to finish top three in their heat or have one of the next three best times to advance to nationals. The Women of Troy took care of business by taking second in its heat and sixth overall with a time of 44.29 and earn a trip to the NCAA Championships where they took third last season.

    USC senior Dalilah Muhammad, already on to nationals in the 400m IH, ran in the women's 100m HH quarterfinals along with sophomore Lauren Blackburn. They would need to finish in the top three of their heat or have one of the next three best times. Muhammad was in the first heat and placed fourth with a legal PR of 13.33 and would have to wait to see if that time would hold up. Blackburn also placed fourth in the third and final heat, but her time of 13.26 was the second-fastest mark of the non-automatic qualifiers and moved her on to the NCAA Championships in the event. Unfortunately for Muhammad, the fifth-place finisher in the final heat had a time of 13.31 and bumped her into the 13th spot overall and out of the competition. Also working against Muhammad was that her heat had a legal wind of +1.9, while the second heat was a +4.0 and the third heat a +2.5. Besides setting a PR in the race, Muhammad's time of 13.33 moves her into 10th place on USC's all-time high hurdles list.

    Sophomore Aaron Brown and freshman Davonte Stewart both advanced to the NCAA semifinals in the men's 200m dash, as they finished second and third in their heat with wind-aided times of 20.62 and 20.66 respectively. As with the women's quarterfinal to follow, the runners would have to finish in the top three of their heat or have one of the three next fastest times to advance. Brown's time was the seventh fastest and Stewart's eighth among qualifiers.

    Payne then ran in the women's 200m dash and also took care of business by taking second in her heat with a time of 23.28 to automatically qualify for the women's 200m semifinals in Des Moines, Ia. where she finished fifth a year ago. Her time today was the seventh fastest.

    The final field event for the Trojans was the women's triple jump where they had freshman Oluwakemi Olonade in the first flight, freshman Melia Cox in the third flight and junior Alitta Boyd in the fourth flight. Oluwakemi was first and she had a best jump on the day of 39-5.00 (12.01m) to finish eighth in her flight and 38th overall. Cox had a best jump of 41-3.75 (12.59m) in her third attempt, but that tied her for the first spot in distance out of advancing to the finals and finishing 18th due to tie-breakers, Boyd fouled in her first attempt but then had a big PR of 43-8.50 (13.32m) in her second attempt to vault her into third place in the competition and likely on to nationals. Then proving her first jump was no fluke, Boyd stuck a 43-8.00 (13.31m) jump in her third attempt. She passed on her final three attempts and finished in third place with a trip to the NCAA Championships. Boyd's jump moved her from sixth to fourth on USC's all-time list in the triple jump. She had a very strong meet as she also tied a PR in the long jump, though finishing in 13th place, one out of advancing in two events.

    The day ended for the Trojans with the NCAA-leading USC men's 4x400m relay team taking care of business to advance to the NCAA semifinals by winning its heat with a time of 3:04.05. The Trojans inserted senior Duane Walker into senior Joey Hughes' spot in the quartet to play it safe since Hughes' two races to advance to the 400m semifinals were his first two races since injuring his hamstring at the Mt. SAC Relays. USC sophomore Josh Mance led off for USC and the Trojans were in second place right behind Kansas, before redshirt senior Bryshon Nellum's leg put them in the lead and they never looked back. Walker had a strong leg to hold the lead and junior Reggie Wyatt carried the baton home safely in first place. Their time ended up being the second fastest among the qualifiers.

    USC closed out the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds with 17 individual athletes qualified in 18 events and the men's 4x400m relay and the women's 4x100m relay advancing to the NCAA Championships:

    Women: Lauren Blackburn (100m HH), Alitta Boyd (triple jump), Kristine Busa (javelin), Alexandra Collatz (discus), Marissa Minderler (hammer), Dalilah Muhammad (400m IH), Jade Niemeyer (hammer), Jenny Ozorai (hammer), Aareon Payne (200m) and the 4x100m relay team (Loudia Laarman, Payne, Akawkaw Ndipagbor and Jessica Davis)

    Men: Aaron Brown (100m, 200m), Joey Hughes (400m), Marqise Lee (Iong jump), Josh Mance (400m), Bryshon Nellum (400m), Davonte Stewart (200m), Daniel Szabo (hammer), Reggie Wyatt (400m IH) and the 4x400m relay team (Nellum, Hughes, Mance, Wyatt, Duane Walker and Scott DeYoung)