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May 29, 2002

Baton Rouge, LA – In the first day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Baton Rouge, sophomore Otukile Lekote and freshman Lashinda Demus advanced to their respective finals with the top times of the day. All told, USC advanced its two 4x100m relays and six athletes to the finals – including three women in the 400m hurdles (see results below).

After the first day of the heptathlon senior Tacita Bass sits in fifth place with 3322 points, five points out of fourth place. Bass’ totals on the day included: 14.33 in the 100m hurdles, 5′ 3 1/4 in the high jump, 38′ 8 1/4 in the shot put and 23.84 in the 200m.

“We advanced everybody through to the next round. Everybody performed well and we have good positions,” said USC Head Coach Curtis Frye. “UCLA didn’t advance one of their athletes to the finals and Southern Cal got all their athletes through. We are doing well and I look for a good day tomorrow.”

Lekote, the defending champion in the 800m, ran a 1:46.49 to win his heat – finishing with the top time of the day with a 51.65 split. Lekote, who ran the world’s fastest time at 1:45.24 two weeks ago, was surprised his time was that quick in the prelims with the finals slated for Friday. “I wanted to control the race the whole way so I took it out fast and look for everybody to tire in the second lap. I feel like 1:46 is about right, it’s good and it got me to the finals,” said Lekote, a native of Botswana. On defending: “I don’t feel nervous like I did last year. I was nervous last year, felt a lot of pressure, but I don’t feel like that this year.”

Demus, the 400m hurdles runner-up at the SEC meet two weeks ago, won her heat with the fastest time of the day at 56.39 – a season best to advance to Friday’s final. Demus, who finished fifth at last year’s USA Championships, is attempting to the very tough double of the 400m hurdles and open 400m. “i just wanted to qualify and make it through the race,” said Demus. “At SECs I had trouble getting over the first hurdle and as soon as I got over that today, I made it through the race. If you don’t worry about who is in the race and who is running next to you, you can do much better. I try not to worry about the competition and just run my race.”

Demus’ teammate freshman Tiffany Ross won her heat and will enter the finals seeded No. 3 at 56.66. Another Gamecock freshman Shevon Stoddart was fourth in her heat but qualified for the finals on time, hitting 57.64 (qualifed seventh overall).

USC advanced both of its 200m women with Aleen Bailey winning her heat at 22.85, the third fastest time of the day. Lisa Barber was second in her heat at 23.06 and also advanced to the finals.

The women’s 4x100m relay advanced to the finals with the third fastest time of the day. The relay, which was the SEC runner-up, included Erica Whipple, Demetria Washington, Mechelle Lewis and Aleen Bailey. “We are going to the finals to win. I like what I saw today,” said Frye.

The men’s 4x100m relay advanced to the finals with the sixth fastest time on the day at 39.46. The relay included Shamus Singletary, Andre Totton, James Law and Corey Taylor. USC was third at the SEC meet two weeks ago.

Wednesday’s Results

400m hurdles – All three Gamecocks made the finals
Lashinda Demus – 56.39 – top time of the day – won heat – seasonal best
Tiffany Ross – 56.66 – won heat – 3rd best time of the day
Shevon Stoddart – 57.64 – fourth in heat – qualifies seventh for finals

200m – 2 advance to the finals
Aleen Bailey – 22.85 – won heat – 3rd best time of the day
Lisa Barber – 23.06 – 2nd in heat – advances to finals

4x100m relay – made finals
43.88 – 3rd best time of the day 2nd in heat
(Whipple, Washington, Lewis, Bailey)

Heptathlon – after first day
Tacita Bass – 3322 points – in 5th place
100m hurdles – 14.33
high jump – 5′ 3 1/4
shot put – 38′ 8 1/4
200m – 23.84

Otukile Lekote – 1:46.49 – top time of the day – won heat – advances to finals

4x100m relay – advanced to finals – finished second in heat (sixth overall)
39.46 – Singletary, Totton, Law, Taylor