May 25, 2012
CLEMSON, SC – Clemson had a total of seven student-athletes punch tickets to the NCAA Outdoor Championships via top-12 finishes at the East Prelims on Friday at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, FL. Five members of the nation’s No. 3 ranked women’s team and a pair of men’s team performers make up the seven, including three first-time individual qualifiers.
“I’m satisfied with where we are right now, and hopefully we can finish well tomorrow,” said Director of Track & Field Lawrence Johnson, who celebrated his 37th birthday Friday.
Warren Fraser had a banner day on the track for the Tiger men’s team. He produced a personal best 10.27 in the 100-meter dash and qualified for the second straight season in the event for the NCAA outdoor nationals. He then proceeded to the 200 prelims, where he ran 20.90 to advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals. He will compete with Justin Murdock (20.98) in the quarters.
“Warren did well today,” Johnson said. “He’s maturing into being the sprinter we brought him in to be. We’re really excited for what his future holds.”
Also in men’s team action, Chris Slate earned his first trip to an NCAA Championships meet in his final try. The fifth-year senior out of Delaware advanced on time after clocking 1:48.86 in the 800 quarterfinals. He is the first Clemson athlete to make it to nationals in the 800 since Davidson Gill in 1999.
“Slate’s improvement shows the growth in our program, in all areas. We’ve always been known for prolific sprinters and jumpers, but to have some national scorer types in the distance goes a long way to being a complete program.”
The Tiger women’s team qualified one athlete in the 100 dash for Des Moines in senior Monique Gracia. She ran a time of 11.49, a personal best, en route to qualifying for her first individual event at a national championship meet. She was an All-American last season with the 4×100-meter relay.
Marlena Wesh made it to the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the first time in her career. She finished fifth in the 400 dash during indoor season, but had the top time (51.59) in the quarterfinals Friday to punch her ticket to Des Moines. She will also compete with both relays on Saturday.
Keni Harrison, a freshman from Clayton, NC, advanced to the national championship meet in the 400 hurdles. She posted a personal best 56.72, the third-best time in Clemson history, also the third-best time out of the East Region on Friday.
Christy Gasparino was the first Tiger to punch her ticket to nationals, and she did so in dramatic fashion. The sophomore out of Connecticut gave the Tiger women’s program an NCAA qualifier in the pole vault for a second straight season and for just the third time in school history. To do so, she had to clear 12’10” on her third and final attempt. She did, and then ended up matching her school record of 13’5.25″ to finish as one of the top 12 competitors alive.
“Gasparino is tough as nails. She’s been a fighter since she got here, and this is only her second year vaulting. She has an innate ability to fight and not give up.”
Alyssa Kulik was the last Clemson athlete to earn a trip to Des Moines. She did so with a time of 9:57.58 and third-place finish in the 3000-meter steeplechase Friday. She made it to the NCAA final last year and was the fourth-place finisher.
Ty McCormack competed extremely well in the men’s steeplechase. The sophomore out of Gainesville, GA posted a lifetime best 8:50.35, over nine seconds better than his previous best, and finished 15th out of 48 participants.
Shai Carpenter narrowly missed qualifying for the finals in his first trip to the NCAA East Prelims. The freshman out of Mauldin, SC hit a mark of 50’0.75″ on his second jump but finished 18th overall, two spots shy of earning three additional attempts. In the women’s high jump, April Sinkler cleared her first bar but missed three tries at the next height. She has one final attempt to qualify for nationals, Saturday in the triple jump.
Brittney Waller was the first Tiger thrower to see action. She placed 22nd overall in the discus. Marcus Brown and Cory Thalheimer compete Saturday in the men’s shot put.
Clemson advanced several athletes from sprint and hurdle prelims Friday. In addition to Fraser and Murdock in the men’s 200, Spencer Adams and Marcus Maxey advanced to the quarterfinals of the 110 hurdles. Adams posted a time of 13.57 to win his heat, while Maxey (13.88) advanced as the third-place finisher in his heat. The men’s 110 hurdle quarterfinals are Saturday at 7:05 PM.
The women’s program went 5-for-5 in qualifying for the next round of the 100 hurdles. Leading the charge was sophomore ACC champ Bridgette Owens, who posted a time of 13 seconds flat to win her heat. Other heat winners were Harrison and Brianna Rollins, both at 13.02. Gracia (13.10) and Edgerson (13.14) were runner-up finishers in their respective heats. The quarterfinals for the high hurdles are Saturday at 7:20 PM.
Dezerea Bryant shrugged off the disappointment of not advancing in the 100-meter dash with a fifth-place preliminary time of 23.10 in the 200 early Friday evening. She and Edgerson (24.02) will vie for spots in the NCAA field on Saturday at 7:50 PM.
The Tigers return to action Saturday to close out the three-day meet. Clemson’s first event will be the women’s triple jump at 4:30 PM. The first track event will be the women’s 4×100 relay at 6:15.
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