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June 9, 2011

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By Miquel Jacobs
Media Relations Assistant

Kierre Beckles

NOTE (Updated 12:01 a.m. (ET): The meet was suspended at 9:15 p.m. (ET) due to lightning in the Des Moines area. After a two-hour, seven minute delay, the meet was suspended for the night at 11:24 p.m (ET) with action to resume at some point Friday morning/afternoon. The South Carolina men’s 4×400-meter relay team is scheduled to compete after the meet resumes, as will the final heat of the women’s 4×400-meter relay.

DES MOINES, Iowa – South Carolina junior Kierre Beckles continued her impressive debut campaign for the Gamecocks by qualifying for Saturday’s final in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.06 in the semifinals Thursday night at Drake Stadium.

A transfer from Central Arizona College, Beckles (Pinelands, Barbados) had the fifth-fastest time in the semifinals to earn the right to compete for the national title Saturday. She is the lone member of the SEC to qualify for the final and is in position to become the first Gamecock woman to earn All-America honors in the event since Ronnetta Alexander did in 2006. All in all, only three Gamecocks have earned that honor – Alexander, Ellakisha Williamson and Beijing Olympian Tiffany Ross-Williams.

“I’m feeling pretty good about my race,” Beckles said of her run. “I’m coming off of SEC’s and having a back injury and trying to recover as quickly as possible to run a sub-13 (second race). I came to nationals as an underdog in the hurdles. I’m trying to become the top dog, so I’m just doing the best I can to get there on Saturday and become a national champion.”

Senior Michael Zajac ended his collegiate career with a 17th-place finish in the men’s hammer throw competition with a top throw of 202’9 (61.81m). It was Zajac’s second appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He earns Honorable Mention All-America honors with his placement, giving the Virginia native five All-America citations in his career that includes three SEC medals.

“It’s not what I wanted today obviously, but I that’s not all I have to look at,” Zajac said. “I’ve had a pretty good career here at South Carolina and put in four great years. I’ve had good times and I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished as a Gamecock.”

Another senior, Antonio Sales, completed his individual collegiate career with a 13th-place finish in the 200-meter dash semifinals. Sales ran 20.92 to take fifth in his heat and earn Second Team All-America honors.

The women’s 4×400-meter relay team of Sanura Eley-O’Reilly, Vashti Bandy, Janica Austin and Amber Allen ran a season best time of 3:36.57, but did not advance in the competitive field. The quartet of three freshmen and one senior placed fifth in its heat in the semifinals, a strong foundation for the future with three of the four looking ahead to three more years of competition at the national meet. The meet was immediately suspended after the second heat of the 4×400-meter relays due to lightning in the area. The final placement of the women’s relay will not be known until the last heat is able to run when the meet resumes.

The lone Gamecock to compete Friday will be senior Lakya Brookins as she attempts to become the first Gamecock to sweep 60-meter and 100-meter national titles in a single season. Brokins will run at 6:55 p.m. (CT) and it will be broadcast live on CBS Sports. The network will broadcast live Friday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. (CT) for Friday’s events.

W-100m Hurdles Semifinal
5. Kierre Beckles 13.06q
W-4x400m Semifinal
18. Eley-O’Reilly, Bandy, Austin, Allen 3:36.57
M-200m Semifinal
13. Antonio Sales 20.92
M-4x400m Semifinal
M-Hammer Throw
17. Michael Zajac 61.81m // 202-09