On Track: Tigers Impressive at NCAA Regional

Auburn qualified key competitors for the NCAA Track and Field Championships at the Mideast Regional.

Fayetteville, Ark.--Cory Martin was a double winner at the NCAA Mideast Regional and his Auburn teammates swept the hurdles races as the Tigers finished second in the men's competition at the John McDonnel Track and Field.

The Tigers wrapped up two days of competition at the University of Arkansas on Saturday night by qualifying a total of seven men and four women athletes for the NCAA Championships that will be held June 11-14 in Des Moines, Iowa. More AU athletes are expected to receive at-large bids to the nationals on Tuesday.

Martin, a senior from Bloomington, Ind., won the hammer throw on Saturday after finishing first in the shot put competition on Friday. He broke his own Auburn record by two inches with the nation's best hammer throw this season.

Martin, who is ranked No. 1 in the country in the hammer, won the event with a toss of 239 feet, 10 inches to finish ahead of teammate Jake Dunkleberger, the defending NCAA champ who finished second with a toss of 222 feet, six inches.

The senior broke his record on his final throw. "I had already won it so that was the time to just push it and see how far I could get," Martin said. "I kind of missed the finish on it, but the speed was good. I've still got some things to work on, but I feel pretty good. My training is going well and so it will be interesting to see what happens in two weeks."

In the shot put Martin was impressive, too, winning with a throw of 65 feet, 9 1/2 inches. Brenton Simmons of Southern Illinois was a distant second at 59 feet, 7 3/4 inches. Auburn sophomore Eric Werskey qualified for the nationals with a third place throw of 59 feet, 4 1/4 inches.

Auburn senior Ty Akins, the defending NCAA champion in the 110 hurdles, finished first on Saturday with a time of 13.44. Mikel Thomas of Kentucky was second at 13.57.

"The strong tailwind made it difficult to hurdle," said Akins, who also won the regional title last year. "It was a good race because I did all I could to stay clean with the wind pushing me in the back. You have to really focus on technique in those races. I lost a little technique but I was still able to pull it out. At this point of the game it's not about time, but putting people behind you."

Ty Akins is a key runner for the Tigers.

Senior Reuben McCoy won the 400 hurdles with room to spare running a time of 50.12 to outpace runnerup Eric Alejandro of Eastern Michigan who finished in 50.51. McCoy was seeded No. 1 in the event.

"I felt a little fatigue in the corner but I tried to make sure I kept my form," said McCoy. "I got out well, and that helped set up the pace for my race. Once I had my momentum, I used that to carry me through. After doing this for so many years you become more experienced, and you learn how to deal with things like fatigue. You adjust based on your knowledge of the race."

The Tigers also qualified two hurdlers for the nationals in the women's 400 meters with Amelia Anderson taking fourth place in 58.0 and fellow sophomore Danielle Gilchrist fifth in 58.06. Nickiesha Wilson, a junior from LSU, dominated the race with a time of 55.71.

The Tigers got a pleasant surprise in the discus with sophomore football player Zach Clayton throwing a collegiate personal record of 191 feet, 11 inches to take second in the competition. His throw was more than eight feet longer than his previous best with a college discus.

Teammate Edis Elkasevic just missed qualifying for the nationals by less than an inch with throw of 183 feet, two inches, but has a chance for an at-large berth. Rashaud Scott of Kentucky won the event with a throw of 199 feet, 10 inches.

Clayton is the son of AU assistant track and field coach Jerry Clayton and is throwing the discus for the first time in college this spring after concentrating on football since graduating from Auburn High School.

Zach Clayton is taking a break from football workouts to compete for the Tiger track and field team.

For the men, we really accomplished our mission," said Auburn men's and women's head coach Ralph Spry whose team scored 73.5 points, second to LSU's 88. Host Arkansas, the SEC champ, was third with 69.5 points.

"The guys that we've been counting on all season to score big points at nationals all got through," Spry said. "I feel good because we got everybody through that we need to give us a chance to contend for a national title.

Ralph Spry

"The mission for the women was to get to nationals," said Spry, whose Tigers were 12th with 21 points. "We don't have a big group going, but the people we take will have a good chance to do well."

In other news from the regional:

*Sophomore Felix Kiboiywo ran a time of 14:06.32 to finish second in the 5000 to qualify for the nationals. The SEC champ in the 1500, he was seeded seventh in the 5000 coming into the competition.

*AU sophomore Valentina Srsa, the SEC champion, qualified for the nationals by taking fifth in the women's hammer with a throw of 193 feet, eight inches.

*SEC women's high jump champion Raevan Harris finished eighth at 5-9 1/4, but is expected to receive an at-large berth in the nationals.

AU's Cache Armbrister qualified in the 200 meters with a 23.13 for fifth place, but the women's 4x100 relay was disqualified due to a false start. Kelly-Ann Baptiste of LSU ran 22.67 to win the 200.

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