March 13, 2010
|Johnny Dutch and Booker Nunley|
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The South Carolina track and field teams posted top 20 finishes for the second consecutive season at the NCAA Indoor Championships with the men earning its best indoor placement in five years. The Gamecocks earned three medals over the weekend at the Randal Tyson Track Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas.
The men’s team tied for eighth overall with 18 points, continuing Carolina’s climb back to the top of the sport with the first top 10 indoor finish since the 2005 team placed ninth. At the last championship, the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships, the men’s team took sixth.
The women’s team placed 19th with 20 points, the 13th top 20 finish under head coach Curtis Frye in his 14 seasons as head coach at South Carolina. The women’s team finished with six All-American citations, and the men’s team finished with five All-America citations over the two-day meet.
Needing a spark in the final men’s event of the meet for the Gamecocks, teammates Booker Nunley and Johnny Dutch stepped to the challenge in the 60m hurdles by collecting 11 points to move the team into the top 25 and mark the sixth straight year a Gamecock earned All-America honors in the 60m hurdles. Running in his first NCAA Indoor Championships, Nunley raced out to a lifetime best 7.58 to claim silver medal honors, the highest finish for the team since Jason Richardson also claimed silver at the Randal Tyson Track in 2008.
“Last year I had some injuries and couldn’t go to indoors, but I’m really happy right now,” Nunley said. “This is one of the few times you’ll hear me say I’m happy about second. I was so happy, not so much about getting second, but to see 7.58. I knew if I stopped thinking and just got out with the start everything would be OK. I’m a finisher so I knew my finish would be good. I just had to get out.”
Teammate Dutch improved a spot from the prelims and hit a season best 7.72 to claim sixth and earn All-America honors for the second consecutive year. He claimed bronze last season, but expressed optimism amid the disappointment after a limited indoor season this year.
“I don’t feel too good right now,” Dutch said. “I had a late start this indoor season, but no excuses. I’m a championship runner, and I ran the best I could. For me to have a short indoor season and still come out with a 7.72, it’s not as fast as last year, but all I can do is be thankful that I’m not hurt.”
In defending her national title from last season, junior Lakya Brookins’s path to the title began coincidentally similar. Much like last season, Brookins earned the final qualifying spot in 60m prelims and was assigned to lane eight for Saturday’s final. Also like last season, Brookins got off to a great start in the far lane. However, no one would run as fast as the 7.13 that she ran last year, and Brookins ended up placing third overall at 7.22. The bronze medal finish gives her All-America honors in the 60m for the second consecutive year and marked the first points put on the board for the women’s team.
The women’s 4x400m relay team of Brandi Cross, Nadonnia Rodrigues, Gabrielle Glenn and Breehana Jacobs placed fourth overall at 3:33.91 despite running in the second heat. Cross and Rodrigues built a strong lead, and Glenn and Jacobs held on as the Gamecocks won the heat at a season best time and earned All-America honors for the 12th consecutive season.
Vica Shobe gave South Carolina its first All-American in the pole vault since the 2006 season after the senior from Matthews, N.C., cleared 13’11 Â¼ (4.25m) to place eighth overall despite entering as the No. 18 seed. The clearance marks a new personal best for Shobe as she breaks her own school record for the fourth time this season. Shobe didn’t register a miss until she fouled out at 14’1 Â¼ (4.30m).
“We’ve come really far indoors,” Shobe said. “It was a tough meet and I didn’t come through on my last jump, but getting All-American definitely made it better. It was probably the best competition (at the NCAA’s) in a long time. There were 12 girls still in at 13’11. That’s pretty amazing. It was tough competition so I had to remind myself to fight for it and not give up when I thought that I had a new PR.”
Across campus at the Walker Pavilion, junior Michael Zajac competed in the men’s weight throw with the opportunity to also earn All-America honors for the second consecutive season. The thrower had an admittedly off-key performance in the prelims, however, and it seemed as if his first throw of 67’6 (20.57m) would not be enough to make the finals. Fortunately for the men’s team, his mark qualified after the second flight, and Zajac used a toss of 68’10 Â½ (20.99m) on his final throw to jump a spot and place eighth, earning the team a point and cementing his status as an All-American after placing ninth in the event last year.
“I was just lucky to be in the final,” Zajac said. “I just have to give thanks to the Lord for that because he was looking out for me today. I was lucky to get the last throw and get that point for my team. It definitely feels good. Hopefully I can improve on it next year.”
Senior Kettiany Clarke placed 14th overall in the women’s pentathlon with 3,601 points. In her first NCAA appearance, Clarke began the event well with a second place finish in the 60m hurdles at 8.39, but a disappointing turn in the high jump (5’0 Â¼ / 1.53m) put her behind the pack. In the shot put, she threw 38’5 (11.71m) and jumped 17’6 (5.33m) in the long jump before concluding with a time of 2:36.65 in the 800m run.
South Carolina begins its outdoor season next weekend when the team travels to the annual Shamrock Invitational hosted by Coastal Carolina.
|SATURDAY, MARCH 13 – WOMEN|
|3. Lakya Brookins||7.22|
|4. Cross, Rodrigues, Glenn, Jacobs||3:33.91|
|8. Vica Shobe||13-11.25 (4.25m) PR, School Record|
|13. Kettiany Clarke||2:36.65 (612 pts)|
|W-PENTATHLON 60m Hurdles|
|2. Kettiany Clarke||8.39 (1041 pts)|
|W-PENTATHLON Long Jump|
|14. Kettiany Clarke||17-06.00 // 5.33m (651 pts)|
|W-PENTATHLON High Jump|
|T15. Kettainy Clarke||5-00.25 // 1.53m (655 pts)|
|W-PENTATHLON Shot Put|
|7. Kettiany Clarke||38-05.00 // 11.71m (642 pts)|
|14. Kettiany Clarke||3,601 pts|
|SATURDAY, MARCH 13 – MEN|
|M-60m Hurdles (Auto: 7.70, Prov: 7.91)|
|2. Booker Nunley||7.58 PR|
|6. Johnny Dutch||7.72|
|M-Weight Throw (Auto: 21.50m, Prov: 19.50m)|
|8. Michael Zajac||68-10.50 (20.99m)|