Fajoyomi & Collatz Earn All-America Honors At NCAA Championships
June 12, 2014
EUGENE, ORE. - Viktor Fajoyomi in the decathlon and Alexandra Collatz in the discus throw earned All-America honors and Aaron Brown in the men's 200m, Tynia Gaither in the women's 200m, Aleec Harris in the men's 110m HH and the women's 4x400m relay team all advanced to NCAA finals during the second day of the 2014 NCAA Track & Field Championships hosted by Oregon at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore today (June 12) before 9,903 fans. Fajoyomi placed seventh in the decathlon to score the USC men's team's first two points and Collatz finished eighth in the women's discus throw to earn the Trojan women's team its first point at the NCAA Championships.
"We had a lot of fun today," said USC Director of Track & Field Caryl Smith Gilbert. "The performances were outstanding, everyone competed hard and people were standing up and taking notice of the Trojans."
Once again it was the senior Fajoyomi who got the action started for the Trojans. He ran in the first heat of the decathlon 110m HH and after a slow start to the race he came back to win his group with a time of 14.62 (+0.2) and was third overall in the event. He entered the day in third place with 4,166 points and earned 896 points in the 110m HH to remain in third, 59 points behind the leader and 11 out of second place.
The next event was the decathlon discus throw and Fajoyomi entered the event coming off a PR of 133-3 (40.61m) at the Pac-12 Championships. This event and the next two - pole vault and javelin - have not traditionally been his highest-scoring events, so they were going to determine to a great extent whether he could earn All-America status. Fajoyomi was in the second flight and would have to come up big as 10 throwers in the first flight threw over 41.00m. His first throw went for 123-2 feet (37.54m) and his second attempt was a foul. His final throw of 117-6 (35.81m) was not an improvement and he finished 16th in the event to score 615 points. After seven events, Fajoyomi had scored 5,677 points and stood in fifth place.
Fajoyomi had a great day in the pole vault setting a PR of 14-9.00 (4.50m), his fourth PR in the first eight events. His previous best had been 13-9.25 (4.20m) done twice before. He finally went out at 15-1 (4.60m), but he tied for 12th in the event and scored 760 points in the pole vault and after eight events in the decathlon he had 6,437 points, good for sixth place overall.
Fajoyomi opened with a throw of 154-3 (47.03m) in the decathlon javelin throw. He improved to 164-2 (50.04m) in his second attempt, but fouled on his third throw. His mark earned him 589 points in the event which was 19th overall.
Entering the 1500m race, the last event of the decathlon, Fajoyomi had scored 7,026 points and was in eighth place, the final scoring position, 43 points behind Robert Cardina of Penn State. Fajoyomi would need to beat him by seven seconds. The race began around 8 p.m., so Fajoyomi started and ended the day's action for the Trojans, spending nine hours at the track. Fajoyomi took the early lead and held it for nearly three laps before finishing sixth with a time of 4:39.11, 14.52 seconds faster than Cardina. That time earned him 686 points and was good enough to vault him into seventh place in the final standings with 7,712 points. Fajoyomi's total also moved him from fourth to second on USC's all-time decathlon list and he became the first Trojan to score in the event at the NCAA Championships since Daniel Haag placed seventh in 1998.
"Viktor (Fajoyomi) PR'd in four of the 10 events and scored 7,712 points which in my opinion is a real decathlete when you can score that many points," said Smith Gilbert. "He is number two on the USC all-time decathlon list and that is a very big feat. I'm very proud of Viktor."
The junior Collatz was in the first flight of the women's discus, in the 11th position out of 12 throwers. Her first throw went for 160-1 (48.79m) and she stood in fifth place following the first round of the first flight. Collatz improved to 164-0 in her second throw and was in seventh place after two rounds. She improved again on her third throw with a mark of 174-1 (53.07m) and moved into fourth place. She would need to still be in the top nine throwers after the second flight to earn three more throws. After the first round of the second flight, she remained in fourth place. Following the second round of flight two she had dropped to sixth, so just one more agonizing round to go to advance...and it got a little scary late in the third round, but she survived to advance to the finals in eighth place, just two inches farther than the 10th-place finisher who did not advance. In the finals Collatz fouled on all three attempts, but she was not alone as 20 of the 27 attempts in the finals were fouls and she finished eighth to earn USC its first team point and gain All-America status for the second consecutive season. That is especially impressive when you realize the volatility of the event, as this year's champion did not make it out of regionals in 2013 and last year's champion did not make this year's final.
"Alex Collatz had a good day," stated Smith Gilbert. "The competition was tough. There are a lot of great discus throwers in the competition this year. She overcame the elements it was raining early, it was windy and they weren't in her favor, so that was a tremendous accomplishment."
The senior sprinter Brown got things started on the track for USC by running in the men's 200m semifinals and he took care of business by winning his heat with a time of 20.45 (-0.6) to automatically advance to Saturday's final. His time turned out to be the fastest qualifier for the finals.
The sophomore Gaither was next in the women's 200m, running in the third and final heat. She needed to be second in her heat or beat the last non-automatic qualifier from the first two heats of 23.30. She placed third in her heat but her time of 23.17 was the top time among the non-automatic qualifiers and she advances to Saturday's final.
"It was cold and windy and there was a lot of winds down the home stretch so that was not in our favor in the 200m as well, but Aaron Brown was able to run a decent race," said Smith Gilbert. "He was very smooth and focused on the race pattern we have been working on as well as was Tynia Gaither. When you are not as tall as some people and you have that kind of headwind against you it is tough to run out there. She did a good job of fighting through it and earned herself a pretty good lane (8) for the final. I'm proud to see her in the 100m and 200m finals for the Trojans."
Up next for USC was senior Aleec Harris in the men's 110m HH semifinals. Again the top two in each heat and the next two best times would advance to Saturday's final. Harris left nothing to chance by easing to victory in the third heat with a time of 13.39 (+0.2) to automatically advance to the final. He had the second-fastest qualifying time of the day.
Junior Melia Cox then ran in the first heat of the women's 100m HH. Cox placed eighth in her heat with a time of 13.60 (-0.3) and did not advance to the finals.
"Melia Cox performed well, again into some headwind," added Smith Gilbert. "She's had a tough season, but is overcoming and meet by meet she keeps making it further and further. She ended her season in the hurdles, but still has the triple jump tomorrow, so we are looking forward to watching her there."
The final running event for the Trojans was the women's 4x400m relay with USC running junior Akawkaw Ndipagbor, sophomore Jaide Stepter, junior Ashley Liverpool and junior Vanessa Jones. Ndipagbor gave the stick to Stepter in a near tie for third place and Stepter took control of third place and closed the gap. Liverpool ran the Trojans into second place and Jones finished with a 50.71 leg to secure second with a time of 3:30.29. By finishing second in their heat they automatically qualified for Saturday's final. The time also was the fourth-fastest in school history and the third different quartet this season to crack the school's top 10 in the event.
"The 4x400m race was exciting as well," added Smith Gilbert. "Vanessa (Jones) had a 50-point anchor leg and Jaide Stepter really stepped up for us on the second leg and ran past some people. Ashley Liverpool kind of looked like `Miss Pac-Man' out there catching up, little by little. She ran a very smart race. We look forward to doing the best we can tomorrow. We have some finals tomorrow and we are going to do a great job then and Saturday to get as many points as possible to try and finish in the top 10 on both sides."
In tomorrow's NCAA Championship action, USC will have the following athletes competing: Aaron Brown in the men's 100m final, Tynia Gaither in the women's 100m final and Melia Cox and Oluwakemi Olanade in the women's triple jump semifinal and finals.