Mission Accomplished For AU Track Team

Knoxville, Tenn.--Eight members of the Auburn women's team qualified for the NCAA Track and Field Championships and two men's team members will join them for the nationals in Sacramento, Calif., June 7-10.

Auburn coach Ralph Spry noted he is pleased how the Tigers performed at the NCAA Mideast Regionals at the Tom Black Track and Field on the University of Tennessee campus.

Josanne Lucas, Markita James and Kerron Stewart won individual events

"The mission coming in was to do well as a team, but our primary goal was to qualify for NCAAs," Spry said. "The people who should have got through (to the national championships) did get through. We had no big let downs.

"It's been a long, tough season, and I feel fortunate that we got everyone through. With the people we have on the women's side, we should have a very potent team at the NCAAs."

Senior Markita James from Smiths Station broke her school and NCAA Mideast Regional records in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 54.54, the third fastest time in the world this year. Her old school record was 55.40 set in April and the regional record of 56.25 was set in the prelims.

"I just tried to run like I did yesterday--attack the first three hurdles, relax on the back stretch and bring it home strong," said James. "It means a lot to break meet records on back-to-back days. My coach (Henry Rolle) has been with me through thick and thin. He has taught me well, and it has paid off. I'm looking forward to nationals. It should be a good competition."

Another Auburn hurdler, Lucas, won the 100-meter race in 13.18 and she also qualified for the NCAA meet in the 400 hurdles with a time of 55.73, her best of the season. That placed the senior second in the event by James.

Lucas, the SEC champ in the 100 hurdles, was joined on the winner's platform by another SEC champ, Stewart, who took the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.26 into the wind. Lucas is also expected to receive an at-large bid to compete in the 200 at the nationals.

"Markita James had an outstanding performance in the 400-meter hurdles, Josanne Lucas is running very well in the 100-meter hurdles and Kerron Stewart showed she is one of the best sprinters in the world,"said Spry. "They've been there for us all year long and have provided leadership all year long and I don't see that changing down the stretch."

Auburn's 4x100m relay team of Tamara Thomas, Jovanee Jarrett, James and Stewart qualified for nationals with a time of 43.73, just behind LSU's 43.68.

Michelle Vaughn qualified in the triple jump with a personal-best of 43 feet, seven and 3/4 inches.

Katalin Mate qualified for the nationals with a personal best toss of 173 feet, 10 inches in the discus, which put her in third place at the regional.

In the team scoring, Auburn's women finished with 77 points, second to LSU's 95.5. The Auburn men scored 13 points, which was 20th.

Reuben McCoy set a personal record in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 49.47, which put him second at the event behind Michael Tinsley of Jackson State, who is ranked first nationally. McCoy's time is the second fastest by a collegian this year and sixth fastest in AU history.

"Reuben had a tremendous performance," Spry said.. "He is really hitting his stride and is peaking at just the right time as we head to the national championships.?

In the other hurdles event, Auburn's Ty Akins qualified for the nationals with a fifth place time of 13.97. Another Tiger, Shamar Sands, didn't qualify as he jogged the race in 18.21 with a sore leg after running a 13.72 in the prelims. With his time he has a good chance to be an at-large qualifier.

In addition to the automatic qualifiers, other athletes may advance to the NCAA Championships by earning one of the at-large spots in the field. The top five finishers in each event from the four regionals advance to Sacramento and others are added based on their best performances of the season.

AU competitors who didn't qualify included Ronda Gullatte, who was sixth in the hammer at 190-1 and seventh in the discus (163-3). Thomas finished sixth in the 200 in 23.71. Jordan Davis was 10th in the men's 1500 in 3:54.12.

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