Track & Field
    USC Women Finish 6th, Men 12th At 2011 NCAA T&F Championships

    Nia Ali the 2011 NCAA 100m hurdles champion.

    June 11, 2011

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    Nia Ali won the women's 100m HH title, Aareon Payne and Jessica Davis scored in the 200m and as part of the 4x100m relay and Brendan Ames placed third in the 110m HH today (June 11) to lead the USC women's team to a sixth-place finish and the men's team to a 12th place finish at the 2011 NCAA Track and Field Championships being held at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Ia. In all, USC had 11 different athletes earn first team All-America honors during the four-day event.

    The men's team began the day in 13th place with 12 points, but only had Ames competing today. The women's team began the day in 22nd place, but had four opportunities to score.

    The 12th-place tie with 18 points by the men's team snapped a string of six consecutive top 10 finishes at the NCAA Championships, however, they still have scored in the top 10 in 13 of Director of Track and Field Ron Allice's 17 seasons leading the program.

    After not scoring at the 2010 NCAA Championships, the USC women's team scored 30 points to finish sixth displaying the influx of freshman talent and the resiliency and determination of the returning team members.

    "If you can score 20 points your usually can count on finishing in the top 10 and I projected our men to score in the mid-20 which would put then right there," said Allice. "We were in the top 10 six years in a row, but just slipped to 12th this season. We had a couple of slip-ups on the men's side. One area we let down in was due to a lack of focus. Hopefully they will learn from this because most everyone is coming back. Just getting to this meet you have to be a very good athlete. I think you have to experience this to understand the magnitude of the meet and the discipline it takes to perform in this setting."

    "Since I've been at USC the women's side had never gone scoreless until last season and they did a good job of getting back to being one of the top programs in the country," said Allice. "We have most of them coming back and a very good recruiting class to complement them which bodes well for the future."

    "We had a lot of personal bests, a new freshman record by Josh Mance, a new PR by Dalilah Muhammad and getting two females into the 200m final is quite a feat," added Allice. "To show how competitive these events are, there are many All-Americans that didn't even make it to the finals in their events. Oscar Spurlock would be a case in point of that, and he's a very fine hurdler. We got third in the women's 4x100m which was something of an upset on the form charts. We had some clutch throws by Jenny Ozorai and Trey Henderson late in their competitions and were very close in the javelin with Cooper Thompson just missing out on eighth. Our throws people performed up to their capabilities."

    USC's women's 4x100m relay team of freshman Loudia Laarman, junior Payne, freshman Jenna Puterbaugh and freshman Davis got things rolling for the Trojans by posting a season-best time and the fourth-fastest all-time by a USC quartet of 43.42. That time was good for third place and earned the women first team All-America honors and six points in the team standings. After the women's 4x100m relay, USC had jumped from tied for 22nd to tied for 12th with 15 points. The 400m relay time was also the third-fastest ever by a USC women's team at the NCAA Championships, trailing only the school-record of 42.96 set in 2006 by Virginia Powell, Jessica Onyepunuka, Candice Davis and Carol Rodriguez and the 43.14 run by Angela Williams, Candace Young, Malika Edmonson and Kinshasa Davis.

    USC's 4x100m relay team of (l-r) Jessica Davis, Jenna Puterbaugh, Aareon Payne and Loudia Laarman

    "I think they did an amazing job finally putting everything together," said USC women's sprints coach Tina Fernandes. "We were the only team with three freshmen and a junior in the whole field. I couldn't ask for anything more, especially since everybody picked us to finish eighth. Hopefully this will be a step back into the top rankings as USC has been known for in the past."

    The next event for USC was the women's 200m dash with Davis and Payne running in their second event in little over a half hour. Payne matched her PR by running 22.83 to finish fifth, 0.003 seconds behind the fourth-place finisher to earn four points for the Trojans. Davis placed eighth with a time of 23.04 to earn USC another point. The pair also became the first Trojan women to score in the event at the NCAA Championships since Rodriguez placed fourth in 2006. For both Payne and Davis is was their second first team All-America honor won on the day. As a result of the points they earned in this event, the USC women's team moved into ninth place with 20 points.

    After the women's shot put and steeplechase results were completed, USC dropped into a tie for 10th place heading into the women's 100m HH.

    The redshirt senior Ali didn't come this far leading the country in the 100 hurdles to falter now and she took care of business with a wind-aided PR of 12.63 (+2.1w) to edge Christina Manning of Ohio State to win the event. Her time was the second-fastest by any female in the U.S. so far this season. Ali became USC's only individual champion this season and third ever in the event, joining Patty Van Wolvelaere (1977 and 1978) and Virginia Powell (2005 and 2006). She also earned the Trojans 10 points in the team competition and moved them into sixth place.

    Nia Ali wins NCAA 100m hurdles title

    "Nia Ali leaves as an All-American, an NCAA champion and second to Virginia Powell in school history in the 100m hurdles," said Allice. "Anytime you run under 12.7 in the hurdles you are elite, not just collegiately, but on the national level. I think she has a chance to do well at the professional level. This was her first year focusing exclusively on the hurdles. It was a major accomplishment and she goes down as one of the top female athletes at USC. She was an All-American in the heptathlon and then focuses on one event and becomes the best in the nation. You hope in the recruiting process you can find an athlete like Ali because that is what it takes to perform at this level."

    The senior Ames was the final USC athlete to compete at the 2011 NCAA Championships and he took third place in the men's 110m HH with a wind-aided PR of 13.34 (+3.6w), just 0.01 seconds behind the second-place finisher. His effort earned him first team All-America honors to add to his 2011 indoor All-America honors in the 60m hurdles. Ames gained six points for USC in the team scoring to move the Trojans into a 12th place tie.

    Brendan Ames en route to a third-place finish in the 110m HH

    "I think Brendan Ames is a great success story," said Allice. "He was a national junior champion out of high school and then struggled two seasons at Kentucky before he came to USC. He received great tutelage from coach Tommie White and has made tremendous progress, becoming a two-time All-American and had he not gotten injured in the long jump at the 2010 Pac-10 Championships, who is to say that he wouldn't have been an All-American last season, too.

    Trojans earning first team All-America honors during the competition were Nia Ali (100m HH & High Jump), Brendan Ames (110m HH), Jessica Davis (200m & 4x100m), Trey Henderson (Hammer Throw), Joey Hughes (400m), Loudia Laarman (4x100m), Josh Mance (400m), Dalilah Muhammad (400m IH), Jenny Ozorai (Hammer Throw), Aareon Payne (200m & 4x100m) and Jenna Puterbaugh (4x100m). USC athletes which earned second team All-America honors were Lauren Blackburn (100m HH), Jessica Davis (100m), Joey Hughes (4x400m), Josh Mance (4x400m), Marissa Minderler (Hammer Throw), Blake Shaw (1500m), Cooper Thompson (Javelin Throw), Duane Walker (4x400m) and Reggie Wyatt (400m IH & 4x400m). The following Trojan athletes earned honorable mention All-America designation Aaron Brown (100m) and Oscar Spurlock (110m HH).