USC’s track & field program is riding high heading into the 2014 NCAA Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon this week.
Both the men’s and women’s programs are ranked No. 13 in the nation and are coming off of an impressive showing at the West Preliminary Rounds, which earned two members of the Trojan squad regional awards.
First-year head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert earned the West Region Women’s Head Coach of the Year Award from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Smith Gilbert, who succeeded 19-year head coach Ron Allice, led the Women of Troy to second place at the 2014 Pac-12 Track & Field Championships last month. Individually, the Women of Troy won a conference-best seven events, two more than national powerhouse Oregon.
Senior hurdler Aleec Harris was named the West Region Men’s Track Athlete of the Year. The Atlanta native set the Pac-12 and national record time in the men’s 110-meter hurdles. His time of 13.18 (+1.8) broke the previous Pac-12 record, set in 1978 by UCLA’s Greg Foster, by 0.04 seconds.
Harris’ time currently ranks second in the world and is the second-fastest 110 meter high hurdles time ever by an NCAA athlete, behind Maryland’s Renaldo Nehemiah, who ran a 13.00 in 1979.
Prior to his record-setting performance at the NCAA Track & Field West Preliminary Rounds, Harris won the 2014 Pac-12 110-meter hurdle championship with a time of 13.35 and won the Mt. SAC Relays with a time of 13.32.
Harris will be the only Trojan competing in the men’s 110-meter hurdle event at the NCAA Championships. He will be going up against Texas A&M’s Wayne Davis II, the reigning men’s champion.
Harris will join senior Aaron Brown and juniors Davonte Stewart and BeeJay Lee to represent USC in the men’s 4×100 relay.
Brown, who hails from Toronto, will also partake in the men’s 100-meter dash. His preliminary time of 10.12 ranks sixth in the nation this season and was good enough for first place in the Pac-12 this season. In addition, Brown will partake in the 200-meter event, where his 20.16 at the NCAA prelims ranks fourth in the nation this season.
Lee will also compete in the 100-meter dash after posting a 10.16w at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds.
Senior Viktor Fajoyomi will compete in the men’s decathlon following a second-place showing at the conference tournament.
USC’s men’s team currently holds 26 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field titles, and will look to improve upon that this weekend.
On the women’s side, 12 athletes will represent USC.
Senior Jessica Davis will look to improve upon her 11.23w time in the women’s 100 meters, which is good for 12th in the nation this season and slotted her second at the Pac-12 championships last month. Junior Tynia Gaither will also compete in this event.
Gaither’s main event, though, will be the women’s 200-meter dash, in which her time of 22.80w at Mt. SAC was good enough for sixth in the nation this season.
Davis and Gaither will team up with sophomore Alexis Faulknor and senior Loudia Laarman in the women’s 4×100 relay.
In the women’s 4×400 relay, Davis and Gaither will team up with juniors Akawkaw Ndipagbor and Vanessa Jones. This foursome has the fifth-fastest time in the nation this season, running a 3:29.42 at the Florida Relays in April.
Jones will also compete in the women’s 400-meter, while junior Melia Cox will compete in the 110-meter hurdle and freshman Amalie Iuel will compete in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles.
Senior Oluwakemi “Kemi” Olonade will partake in the women’s triple jump and junior Alexandra Collatz will represent the Women of Troy in the discus competition, in which she placed fifth last year.