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June 12, 2010

EUGENE, Ore. – An NCAA record 12,812 fans filled historic Hayward Field Saturday to witness the final day of competition at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and South Carolina showed up by earning 11th place overall in the men’s team competition with 20 points.

South Carolina’s men’s team took a big hit in the 110-meter hurdle final when Johnny Dutch was disqualified due to the closest of false starts. The men’s team finishes with 10 All-America honors – the men’s 4×100 and 4×400 relays, Johnny Dutch in the 400-meter hurdles and Michael Zajac in the hammer throw. The women’s team concluded competition yesterday with All-America nods from Shayla Mahan and Brandi Cross. The Gamecock women earned three points and tied for 51st.

One day after claiming his first NCAA title with an undefeated season in the 400-meter hurdles, Dutch was spurned of the opportunity to medal in the 110-meter hurdle final Saturday when he was charged with a false start, eliminating him from the race. Dutch entered the weekend with the nation’s third-fastest time in the event and was the only athlete to qualify for both hurdle events this year.

“I knew they would call it on me because I had a good start,” Dutch said of the false start. “I knew I didn’t false start. As soon as I heard the gun I went. I didn’t jump (the gun), and I didn’t flinch. I just had a really good start. Right before the first hurdle they shot the gun, so since it was so good I knew that maybe (they called) a false start. You win some and lose some. I lost that one but I wouldn’t let it defeat me.”

The first men’s final of the day was an exciting one on the track in front of 12,812 fans and a live television audience. The South Carolina quartet of Andre Carter, Antonio Sales, Quentin Moore and Obakeng Ngwigwa fought through a series of fumbled and off-key handoffs to race to a time of 39.87 and place fourth overall.

The placement is the top finish for the men’s 400-meter relay since 1999. The All-America citation was the first career All-America nod for Carter and fifth for Sales, who ran the first and second legs, respectively.

“I felt pretty confident I’d get us in first like we should be,” Carter said of his opening leg. “My exchange to (Sales) was pretty good.”

“We got a good exchange,” Sales added. “It kind of felt like we were leading but it was hard to see. Me and Doc (Moore) didn’t get the baton off like we should. He had to slow up and it cost us some time.”

Moore, who earned his seventh All-America honor in his first race of the day, carried South Carolina along the final curve before handing it off to Ngwigwa. Despite battling through two tough exchanges, the senior used his experience to keep the Gamecocks in contention for a medal.

“After the baton handoff exchange (with Sales) I was like `dang we just lost a whole second’ so I tried to come out strong and get it to OB,” Moore said. “OB came out strong today, he usually doesn’t go out that hard, so I had to chase him down and it pulled off our handoff again.”

Ngwigwa grabbed the baton at the infamous Bowerman Curve determined to keep the Gamecocks in the race after the two shaky exchanges. The situation became more stressful for all of the anchor legs after Kentucky, UCLA and second-seeded Texas A&M all earned “DNF’s” with the Aggies dropping the baton at the Bowerman Curve exchange.

“The most important thing was to finish the race and try to score points,” Ngwigwa said of the anchor. “That’s all I had to do.”

The meet ended with the men’s 4×400-meter relay as Ngwigwa, Dutch, and Moore teamed with Aaron Anderson to also take fourth place overall. The quarter ran 3:03.58, the fourth-fastest time in school history, to push South Carolina to 20 points. “After getting fourth in the 4×1, the main aim was to try to win the 4×4,” Ngwigwa said. “I knew the other three guys were strong enough to keep us in front, so I wanted to lead and keep us in first.”

Racing against some of the top mile relays in NCAA history, Ngwigwa started the race by putting the Gamecocks in position, and from there it was evident that the top four relays in the country belonged to South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. Dutch, Anderson and Moore each kept the Gamecocks battling between third and fourth before reaching the line.

“I got he baton in third or fourth,” Anderson said of his second leg. “I just wanted to make a good move down the backstretch and put my team in position. OB did a great job popping off. Dutch ran very well. I just tried to do my part to put my team in position to score some points.”

“I still haven’t gotten the 110 hurdle race out my head,” Dutch added of his third leg. “It stayed with me through the whole race so it was really hard to focus but I pulled it together. We just had to adjust and deal with (last minute line-up changes). These guys ran really well. I didn’t run as well as I wanted to because my legs were kind of done. I tried to pull through for my team and they ran well.”

Moore anchored with a strong leg, fighting Florida’s Calvin Smith through the first 200 meters. Moore finishes his Gamecock career with eight All-America honors after getting the nod in both relays today.

“I’m feeling really happy and satisfied with our race,” Moore said. “Johnny was a little upset before the race, but we knew no matter what he’d still put his heart on the line. The team ran well. We had our season PR. I’m blessed because of what we went through in the indoor season with injuries, we’ve come far. It’s a blessing to come here and compete.”

M-110m Hurdle Final
Johnny Dutch FS
M-4x400m Final
4. Ngwigwa, Dutch, Anderson, Moore 3:03.58
M-4X100M Final
4. Carter, Sales, Moore, Ngwigwa 39.87