USC Men 11th, Women 24th At NCAA Track & Field Championships
June 9, 2012
DES MOINES, IA - The men's 4x400m relay team ran the second-fastest time in school history to place second, the women's 4x100m relay team placed seventh and Aaron Brown took seventh in the men's 200m dash on the final day of action (June 9) at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at historic Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Ia. The USC men's team finished tied for 11th place with 20 points, while the Trojan women's team finished tied for 24th with 13 points.
The Trojans saved their best for last as the men's 4x400m relay team of senior Joey Hughes, sophomore Josh Mance, junior Reggie Wyatt and redshirt senior Bryshon Nellum ran the second-fastest time in USC history to finish second to Florida with a time of 3:00.64. Florida won the race with a Drake Stadium record of 3:00.02. Despite it being such a loaded field with the first team out of the finals Baylor having the fastest time ever to not qualify, USC and Florida made it a two-team race. It was a close race after the first leg, but Josh Mance built the lead on the second leg and Wyatt held it with a split of 45.30. Despite a final leg of 44.82 by Nellum, Florida's NCAA champion 400m runner Tony McQuay ran a 44.01 final leg to take the lead with around 200m left and held on for the win. The race was just the first time the Trojans were able to run this 4x400m team since Mance was injured at the Texas Relays on March 31. The last time they ran together was on March 24 when they set the previous second-fastest time in school history of 3:02.24. The Trojans were just .06 seconds off the school record of 3:00.58 set in 1992 by Travis Hannah, Curtis Conway, Martin Cannady and Quincy Watts.
The Trojans entered the final event in 21st place and needed to win to finish in the top 10 at tied for ninth. USC's 11th-place finish was just the fifth time in the last 18 seasons they did not finish in the top 10, but they still have finished in the top 12 in 18 of the last 19 seasons.
"Naturally I'm disappointed, but we were the top finisher on the men's side among private schools and that is significant," said USC Director of Track and Field Ron Allice. "Our goal is always to be in the top 10. The competition is very tough. There are 350 some schools competing in this meet and we just missed on a couple of things. We just have to make sure we get more people to this meet. You have to get here first. If you get here you have to get past that semifinals and that is a difficult task. Our region is getting tougher and tougher each year. That is the objective for the staff as we plan our recruiting and our schedule. We had some people really step up and compete hard. You know just three weeks ago we were still hoping that the quarter-mile group would get back, so from that standpoint I'm happy that we were able to line up today and run as well as we did. You have to really experience this. I don't want to demean other sports, but this competition over the four days is intense and you will see a lot of these people are going to be in London."
The women's 4x100m relay team of sophomore Loudia Laarman, senior Aareon Payne, freshman Akawkaw Ndipagbor and sophomore Jessica Davis was on the track first for the Trojans and they placed seventh with a time of 44.24 to earn USC two points in the team competition. It was the fourth time in the last seven seasons and 14th overall that USC's 4x100m relay team scored at the NCAA Championships. Last season the team of Laarman, Payne, Jenna Puterbaugh and Davis placed third with a time of 43.42.
Aaron Brown was the only individual male competing to the Trojans on Saturday and he placed seventh in the men's 200m dash running out of the second lane with a time of 21.13 into a -4.2 headwind. It was the first All-America honors for the sophomore and he became the first Trojan male to score in the 200m race since Ahmad Rashad placed eighth in 2007. Brown had a wind-aided PR of 20.44 in the semifinals and earlier this season had a legal PR of 20.55.
"I thought Aaron Brown had a vastly improved season," said Allice. "His performance here didn't reflect how well he ran all season. He got caught leaning back in the 100m race and in the 200m it was run into a strong headwind and his body build is not the type to be running into a strong wind, plus he was in the inside lane."
Junior Alitta Boyd was the final USC female to compete at the championships and she unfortunately fouled on all three attempts in the women's triple jump and did not advance to the finals. At the NCAA preliminary rounds, Boyd set a PR of 43-8.50 (13.32m) to move into fourth place on the Trojans' all-time triple jump list.
"On the women's side, we just didn't hit on all cylinders all season," added Allice. "Losing (Zsofia) Erdelyi, our high hurdlers weren't as efficient as in the past, our 4x100m relay team wasn't as good as last year with a little differnt personel and Jessica having an injury from indoor season. That's also when Blackburn got injured and then we let Erdelyi run two marathons in just over a month to qualify for the Olympics and I think that took something out of her body. In the case of our male hammer thrower Daniel Szabo, his situation is that he had an operation in the fall and he spent the whole season dealing with that and was not able to compete at the level that he and us had anticipated."
The feel-good story of the season had to be the return to form of Nellum who battled back from multiple surgeries on his legs due to being a random gunshot victim in 2009 to post the best time of his career of 45.18 in the open 400m race.
"In all defense of Bryshon, he is still coming back," said Allice. "This is just his first season really of being healthy and he is still not there yet. It is a process and he will continue to develop and his body will continue to get fitter and fitter as he goes."
"Some of our freshman did a really good job of getting to the NCAA Championships," said Allice. "Davonte Stewart making it here as a freshman is very impressive. We have some outstanding athletes returning and we have to do a good job of supplementing our current recruiting class between now and the beginning of the season. We want to have a very successful season in 2013 with the fact that we host the Pac-12 Conference Championships."
Trojans earning first-team All-America honors at the 2012 NCAA Track and Field Championships (finish-event):
Aaron Brown (7th-200m), Kristine Busa (8th-Javelin), Jessica Davis (7th-4x100m), Joey Hughes (2nd-4x400m), Loudia Laarman (7th-4x100m), Josh Mance (5th-400m, 3nd-4x400m), Marissa Minderler (8th-Hammer), Dalilah Muhammad (5th-400m IH), Akawkaw Ndipagbor (7th-4x100m), Bryshon Nellum (2nd-4x400m), Jenny Ozorai (4th-Hammer), Aareon Payne (7th-4x100m) and Reggie Wyatt (3rd-400m IH, 2nd-4x400m).
USC athletes earning second-team All-America honors by finishing 9-16 at the championships were:
Earning honorable mention All-America honors were: Lauren Blackburn (23rd-100m HH), Alitta Boyd (No Mark-Triple Jump),
Marqise Lee (17th-Long Jump), Jade Niemeyer (21st-Hammer), Davonte Stewart (19th-200m)