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July 5, 2008

EUGENE, Ore. – Former South Carolina athlete Rodney Martin won the men’s 200-meter dash semifinal Saturday afternoon as three Gamecocks advanced to compete in the final day of competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Sunday marks the final day of the weeklong championships held in Track Town at the University of Oregon’s historic Hayward Field.

Martin ran a 20.04 to lead the 16 semifinalists and came less than two-tenths of a second from setting a new Hayward Field record in the event. Already a pool candidate for the 4x100m relay team at Beijing following his fifth place finish in the 100-meter dash final last Sunday, Martin has continued to progress through each round the past two days in his final event. After placing 15th in the qualifying round of the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.00, Martin enjoyed the biggest jump in the quarterfinal round by placing second early Saturday with a 20.52. His time of 20.04 in the semifinal shaves nearly one second off his qualifying round time as he prepares for Sunday’s final that will begin at 7:25 p.m. (EST).

“It was a good race and it went pretty cool and comfortable,” Martin said. “I’m just trying to get a good lane for the finals.”

One of the favorites in the event will not run in the final after not advancing past the quarterfinal round. Tyson Gay suffered a severe left hamstring cramp in the quarterfinal round and was not able to finish the race, leaving the race open heading into today’s semifinal and tomorrow’s final.

“I would like the best U.S.A. Olympic team to go to Beijing and I would rather have Tyson be here then not even if that means I wouldn’t make the team because that shows I have to work that much harder,” Martin said of Gay not competing in the 200-meter dash for the remainder of the Olympic Trials.

Shalonda Solomon advanced to the 200-meter final with a 22.48 in Saturday’s semifinal to place fifth overall. The final will be run at 7:40 p.m. Sunday with the top three runners earning a trip to Beijing. A former three-time NCAA champion, Solomon is searching for her first Olympic bid.

Fellow Olympian Miki Barber saw her run end in the 200-meter dash after placing 12th in the semifinal round at 23.04.

Terrence Trammell improved to a 13.38 in the quarterfinal round to finish sixth overall and advance to Sunday’s final rounds. An Olympic silver medalist in 2000 at Sydney and 2004 in Athens, Trammell is seeking his first gold medal at the Olympic Games and will continue his quest Sunday beginning at 6:15 p.m. (EST). The top eight will qualify for the finals, which will begin at 8:30 p.m. (EST).

“That’s a tradition,” South Carolina head coach Curtis Frye said of the number of Gamecocks that will compete in the finals of their respective events. “Those three right there, if two can make the team that will give us about seven on the (U.S. Olympic) team. That will be great to have seven Americans, three Jamaicans and one Finnish athlete in Jussi Heikkila. It will be a great representation for the Gamecocks at the Olympic Games. I think we’ll have around 12 to 13 athletes at the track for the Olympic Games for the Gamecocks. If we’re lucky, Shalonda makes the team and pushes that number up. Rodney’s already on the team so that will give us a good representation carrying the Gamecock flag.”

Current Gamecock and NCAA outdoor champion Jason Richardson’s bid for his first Olympic Games ended in the qualifying round of the 110-meter hurdles early Saturday as he went down with an injury and was not able to finish the race. He, along with Brandi Cross and Johnny Dutch, were three current Gamecocks that represented South Carolina at the U.S. Olympic Trials during the week.

“Jason got hurt in the first round while Shalonda made it to the final, so it was a bittersweet day,” South Carolina head coach Curtis Frye said. “His hamstring tightened up. The doctor looked at it and found he caught a cramp in it. He’ll be OK. We’ll come back and let them see if they can get it done. He and Brandi have one more race for the USA Under-23 championships. After that, we’ll be prepared for another season and see if we can move our men and women back in the top 10. Jason and Brandi had a great experience out here that will benefit us next year.”

Sunday’s television coverage of the final day at the Olympic Trials will run from 7-9 p.m. (EST) on NBC. All three events with Gamecocks represented will be shown during the television coverage.