Reese heads to Olympic finals

As prelims go, it looks like it couldn't have gone any better for Brittney Reese, the recent Ole Miss track and field star turned professional, in Beijing yesterday.

All she did was finish in first place and ahead of all 40-plus competitors entered. The top 12 advanced to the finals.

The Gulfport native jumped 22 feet, 6.5 inches (6.87 meters) on her second jump to advance to Friday's finals. Jumpers get three attempts in the qualifying round, and after fouling on her first attempt, Reese beat the automatic distance of 22 feet, 2 inches (6.75 meters) needed to move on.

Her chances of reaching a gold medal were enhanced when the odds-on favorite, Naide Gomes of Portugal, failed to advance and finished 32nd. After fouling on her first two attempts, Gomes jumped just 20 feet, 7-3/4 inches (6.29 meters).

Maurren Higa Maggi of Brazil had the second-longest jump behind Reese at 22 feet, 3-1/4 inches (6.79 meters). Ukraine's Lyudmila Blonska was third.

Now Reese tries on Friday to become the first female athlete from Ole Miss since Jennifer Gillom to win a gold medal at the Olympics. Gillom won gold with Team USA basketball in 1988.

"Being in the Olympics is a dream come true," said Reese before she departed for Beijing and after she finished first in the USA trials in Eugene, Ore. "I just want to go there and compete to the best of my abilities. I'm motivated to win."

Certainly with her preliminary results from yesterday, Reese looks well on her way. A repeat performance and she's golden.

"She really is special," said Ole Miss Coach Joe Walker, who recruited Reese out of high school and after her two years of playing basketball but not participating in track and field at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. "Anybody who achieves what she has is a special person. She brings so many things to the table. God really blessed her with a lot of athletic ability. She's young in the sport. She's only two years in it since her high school days. She's really improved a lot in the last year."

Enough so that as of right now, she's the best in the world. Come Friday, she can solidify that once and for all.

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