The USC women’s team dropped the ball – the baton, to be more precise – in the final event of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, but a strong showing in the sprints carried the Trojans to a second consecutive top-10 finish in the team standings Saturday afternoon.
A faulty handoff after the first lap doomed the Trojans to a last-place finish in the 1,600-meter relay. However, the Trojans finished second in the 400 relay in a school-record 42.90 seconds, and Floridians Tynia Gaither and Deanna Hill medaled in the 100 and 200 after running on the 400 relay squad.
“Pretty good day for both of us,” Gaither summed up. “We definitely came in with high expectations.
“The places we got, we’re not satisfied, but it’ll do. We still have work to do.”
Specifically, Gaither (who was born in the Bahamas) needs to prepare for that country’s Olympic trials in the 100 and 200. Hill has qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials in the same two events. Both women said they also hope to run in the trials on a 400 relay team.
Gaither placed fourth in the 100 in a wind-aided personal record of 11.08 seconds, and she took fifth in the 200 in a PR of 22.54 (third in USC history). Hill came in sixth in the 100 in 11.21 (tying Gaither for eighth in school history with legal winds) and wound up seventh in the 200 in 22.75.
The 100 and 200 champion was Oregon’s Ariana Washington, a freshman out of Long Beach Poly. She clocked 10.95 and 22.2, respectively. Ashley Henderson, a San Diego State sophomore, was second in the 200 in 10.96. Henderson anchored the Aztecs’ sixth-place 400 relay team.
Hayward Field crowds are generally the biggest and loudest in college track, and Hill said the 400 relay team (including Desiree Brown and Alexis Faulknor) definitely heard the noise generated by 12,947 spectators. Louisiana State had to run a Hayward-record time of 42.65 to beat the Trojans.
“We used the crowd to our advantage,” Hill said.
The Trojans, who finished seventh in the team race last year, tied Florida for ninth with 28 points this time around. Arkansas took first with 72 points, and host Oregon came in second with 62 points after winning a year ago. Castro Valley’s Sasha Wallace gave the Ducks a boost by taking third in the 100 hurdles in 12.81 seconds.
USC senior Jaide Stepter placed sixth in the 400 hurdles in 55.30 seconds. Another Trojans senior, Tera Novy, finished seventh in the discus at 189-7.
Saturday’s action, limited to women after the men finished Friday, was highlighted by the American triple jump record of 47-8, set by Georgia sophomore Keturah Orji.
New Mexico senior Courtney Frerichs set a college record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, winning easily in 9:24.41. Texas A&M junior Shamier Little won the 400 hurdles in 53.51 seconds, posting the world’s fastest time this year to win her third consecutive title.