Track and field finishes in second place

Both the USC women’s and men’s team’s placed second in the 2015     Pac-12 Track & Field Championships, securing 13 event titles at the meet hosted by UCLA in Westwood, California, last Sunday.

Among some of the greatest accomplishments was that of junior Andre De Grasse, who was named the Pac-12’s Men’s Athlete of the Meet after winning the 100m, 200m and being part of the winning 4x100m relay.

“I just go out there and focus, run my race,” De Grasse said. “Just focus on me, don’t worry about anybody else. I wasn’t worried about breaking any records. Just worried about lowering my time, beating myself.”

De Grasse broke the former 100m USC record by .6 seconds and the conference meet record that was currently held by UCLA’s Ato Bolden since 1996.

“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” De Grasse said. “I feel like I still ran 10.00 or 10.01. So I’m just kind of soaking it in right now.”

Freshman Deanna Hill, freshman Ky Westbrook, junior Alexis Faulknor and redshirt junior Tynia Gaither broke the meet record for the 4 x 100m relay that was set last season by USC. Their winning time of 43.10 beat last season’s record by more than 10 points and ranked them third all-time as a Pac-12 squad.

Freshman Dior Hall came back with a win in the 100m, finishing with a time of 12.99 and, along with senior Melia Cox’s third place time of 13.48 and sophomore Amelie Iuel’s seventh place time of 14.11, helped earn 18 points for USC and narrowed Oregon’s lead to 109-69.

“I knew Sasha [Wallace] was ahead of me,” Hall said. “I knew how high I needed to score in order for us to try and win Pac-12s, so I just knew that if I got her at the last hurdle and outrace her to the finish line, then hopefully, I’ll beat her.”

USC also dominated the 400m race, with senior Vanessa Jones placing first with a new personal record of 51.50, which advanced her to second place on the USC all-time list in the event and eighth of all-time by a Pac-12 runner.

“I knew it was destined for me,” Jones said. “It was just across town, all my family was here, I’ve been working hard and I knew I was going to come out with the win.”

Jones became only the second USC woman to win the Pac-12 400m title, along with Gervaise McCraw, who achieved the title in 1987 at the first Pac-12 event.

Along with freshman Kendall Ellis, who placed fifth with a score of 52.88, Akawkaw Ncha-Ndip placed sixth with a score of 53.00 and Cameron Pettigrew placed seventh at 53.28, the Trojan women earned 19 points, narrowing the score against Oregon to 133-94.

The Women of Troy also commanded the 100m dash, placing second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the race. Gaither led the pack with a PR of 11.27 putting her into ninth place on USC’s all-time list. Westbrook took third with a time of 11.36, displacing Faulknor on the all-time list, who placed fourth. Hill and sophomore Destiny Brown placed fifth and sixth respectively, earning 26 points for USC.

In addition to the 100m dash, the Trojan women took first and second in the 400m IH race. Junior Jaide Stepter won the event for the second consecutive time with a score of 55.85, making her the second woman ever to win the event more than once.

“I’m just so excited because we’ve been training for this, I’ve been praying for it since we started practice in September,” Stepter said. “It’s just so exciting to be able to do it and be able to repeat a Pac-12 title, it’s so amazing. And being able to have my teammate as my biggest competition is such a privilege for both of us to be able to have the pressure on each other every day at practice.”

Iuel took second place in the event, with a time of 56.06 and an earned 18 points between the two women. This cut Oregon’s lead to 163-138.

The 200m races further narrowed Oregon’s lead for the women’s team. The Trojan women had seven runners reach the final line with Gaither winning first place with a time of 22.97. Faulknor was second with a time of 23.08 and Hill close behind with a score of 23.14. Jones, Cantrell, Westbrook and Brown were 4th through 7th respectively, earning 34 points for the team.

“We had quite a few personal bests and just about everyone in our team scored points. When you face a dominant team like Oregon there is no room for mistakes and we fell shy in a few areas that cost us the championship,” USC Director of Track & Field Caryl Smith Gilbert said. “We had finals and graduation last week so now its time to rest and train for the NCAA Championships in two weeks.”

The Trojans will compete again at the 2015 NCAA West Preliminary Rounds in Austin, Texas from May  28-30.