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July 4, 2008

EUGENE, Ore. – Former Gamecock Shalonda Solomon enjoyed her first Independence Day as a professional Friday by winning the preliminary round of the 200-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic Trials at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.

Solomon ran a 22.51 for her first win since announcing on June 27, 2007, that she would leave South Carolina early to become a professional. A three-time NCAA champion, including indoors and outdoors in the 200-meter dash, Solomon missed the early part of year while healing a quadriceps injury.

“I’m very happy with the way I ran,” Solomon said. “It was a seasonal best for me, because I started off the year slow and building up at each race.”

“Shalonda had a good meet and a good first round,” South Carolina coach Curtis Frye said. “We tried to set things up so tomorrow she’ll go in a little easier heat and have a better lane. If you run the best time you get put in a little easier heat. To finish in the top two, you get a chance to draw a good lane. She hadn’t run a lot this year so we wanted to go ahead and put (a good time) in. We were concerned that if she didn’t get a good run in that she wouldn’t get a good draw. We’re happy with her performance today.”

Three other Gamecock women advanced to the quarterfinal round with strong performances Friday. Former Olympian Miki Barber ran a 23.10 to place 11th overall. Mechelle Lewis, who placed seventh last Saturday in the 100-meter dash finals, ran a 23.40 in the 200-meter dash Friday to finish in 22nd place. Fresh off a fifth place showing in the 400-meter dash finals last night, Natasha Hastings ran a 23.49 to place 24th and also advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinal round.

A 4×400-meter relay pool candidate, Rodney Martin advanced in the men’s 200-meter dash with a time of 20.995 to place 15th overall in Friday’s qualifying round.

“Overall it’s been a good week for the Gamecocks,” Frye said. “Right now we’re at three women in Tiffany Ross-Williams and two in the women’s 4×100-meter relay. Now we also have Rodney Martin and Leroy Dixon as our two men that will be in relays. We have a chance to get a couple more. I’ve been involved (with coaching for the Olympics) since 1984 and having 26 kids get a chance is awesome.”

A large contingent of Gamecocks will hit the track Saturday as competition at the Olympic Trials begins to wind down. Former 110-meter hurdles NCAA champions Terrence Trammel and Jason Richardson will both begin their runs at the Olympics Saturday beginning at 2:25 p.m. (EST). Carolina will also be represented in the women’s 100-meter hurdles while the quarterfinals and semifinals of the men’s and women’s 200-meter dash will be run Saturday afternoon. Television coverage will run from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. (EST) on NBC.