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June 11, 2010

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Johnny Dutch – NCAA Champion

EUGENE, Ore. – It took three years of NCAA heartbreak, but Friday afternoon at historic Hayward Field, South Carolina junior Johnny Dutch claimed his first individual and South Carolina’s first 400-meter hurdle title with a time of 48.75.

Much of the hype at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships this week has revolved around the rivalry between America’s premier hurdlers, juniors Dutch and Washington State’s Jeshua Anderson. Anderson claimed the NCAA crown each of the last two years while Dutch found his success in the rivalry on the international stage. In Friday’s meeting, Anderson raced out hard, determined to beat the undefeated Dutch in the race with a strong early lead, but the Gamecock hurdler hit a new gear in the final 100 meters to pass Anderson over the final two hurdles and earn the title convincingly with Anderson finishing at 49.31.

“It feels extremely like I’m on the highest high right now,” Dutch said of earning his first national title. “I didn’t run as fast as I wanted to, but just to go for the win is the biggest thing right now because the wind was heavy. Getting second last year made me really hungry and passionate. I’m not going for any place but first this year.”

“I knew he would come up inside of me coming off the last curve,” Dutch added of the final 110 meters. “I knew I had a lot inside me so I just pushed through regardless of if he broke or not. I just pushed all the way through the line.”

With the win, Dutch officially establishes himself as one of South Carolina’s best of all time, and it came at the same track that he took fifth at the 2008 Olympic Trials and where he earned his bid to the 2009 World Championships. In both races he competed against and defeated Anderson, giving the friendly rivals the proverbial draw in major competitions heading into today’s matchup.

“We go way back since Poland (IAAF World Junior Championships) in 2008,” Dutch said of Anderson. “He was my roommate. We couldn’t be anything but a friendly rivalry. I know he works hard and has just as much heart. To beat him means a lot. We’re friends. Anytime we step on the track it’s down to business, but after that we’re friends again.”

“I’m happy for Johnny,” Anderson said of the rivalry. “That’s one of my good friends and I’m (content) that he won. I can’t wait for the competition for years to come. We’ll continue to have races like these throughout our years in track.”

With the finals just beginning, Dutch still has two races to go. He will compete in the 110-meter hurdle final and the 4x400m relay tomorrow in hopes of helping the Gamecocks secure a top 10 team placement. The 110-meter hurdle final begins at 11:16 a.m. (2:16 p.m. ET) Saturday and the relay team races at 11:50 a.m. (2:50 p.m. ET).

“Just to get through this I thank God for giving me the strength,” Dutch said. “I was really tired after the 4×4 yesterday, so I really give him praise. I didn’t have the best 110 hurdle prelim, but I got that out the way. It’s all about the final, and the 4×4 will get there too.”

The first women’s All-American of the meet goes to junior Shayla Mahan, her first individual All-America honor. The Detroit-native ran 11.47 to place eighth overall and put the Gamecock women on the board with a point.

“I feel good,” Mahan said. “I’m goad I was able to get in the finals because we haven’t been doing so well this weekend. We didn’t make it in the 4×1 and I was upset about that, so I’m just glad I made it into the final. I’m upset about my time and placement, but at least I got a point so I’m happy about making finals and placing.”

Senior Brandi Cross claimed seventh overall in the 400-meter dash to round out the women’s team scoring. Cross ran 53.01 to finish her career with nine All-America citations, the 11th-most women’s All-America awards in program history.

Junior Michael Zajac took 15th in the hammer throw with a best toss of 206’6 (62.96m). Zajac earns his first NCAA Outdoor All-America citation as one of the top eight American finalists, giving him three for his career.

Earlier on the track, senior Vica Shobe no heighted in the women’s pole vault final. She ends her Gamecock career as the second-ever All-American after taking eighth at the NCAA Indoor Championships this year.

The final day of competition will be broadcast live on CBS Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon (1-3 p.m. ET). Competing for South Carolina will be Johnny Dutch in the 110-meter hurdles and the men’s 4×100 and 4x400m relays.

W-100m Final
8. Shayla Mahan 11.47 (2.8)
W-400m Final
7. Brandi Cross 53.01
W-Pole Vault
Vica Shobe NH
M-400m Hurdle Final
1. Johnny Dutch 48.75
M-Hammer Throw
15. Michael Zajac 206-6 (62.96m)