JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Clemson track and field program concluded its competition at the NCAA East Region Prelims on Saturday by having five women and one relay qualify for the upcoming 2021 NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. The four-day meet in Jacksonville has seen Clemson advance 11 athletes in 10 individual events, along with 3 relay teams, to the upcoming competition in Eugene.
“It has been a great four days, and I’m very proud of the way all the kids competed,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Mark Elliott following the conclusion of this week’s meet. “The day [Saturday] didn’t end how we wanted it to [with the 4x400m relay], but that’s the way that championships are.”
Veronica Fraley got the day’s action started by contesting the discus throw, and following three rounds of competition, the native of Raleigh, N.C., secured another ticket to Eugene after finishing ninth overall with her toss of 54.95 meters (180 feet, 3 inches). Fraley is set to be busy in Oregon after already having qualified in the shot put during Thursday’s competition. Following Saturday’s result, Fraley became the second woman in program history, and the first since 2001, to qualify for the NCAA championships in both the discus and shot put during the same season.
Harleigh White continued to dazzle on the triple jump runway, as the recent Clemson graduate leaped to a wind-legal mark of 13.18m (43-3) during the second round of competition. White’s mark allowed her to finish tenth overall and qualify for her first NCAA championships. The native of Huntingtown, Md., is the first Tiger since 2016 to qualify in the event and is just the eighth woman in program history to ever punch her ticket in the outdoor triple jump.
Action on the track started emphatically as Clemson’s 4×100-meter relay ran 43.46 seconds to place third in its heat and fifth overall. The Tigers’ time was historic, as it now ranks as the third-fastest mark in program history. Serena Clark, Rebekah Smith, Antoinette van der Merwe and Trishauna Hemmings came together to contest the event. Success in the women’s 4x100m relay is nothing new for the Tigers, as Clemson has now had a team qualify for each of the last six, and 10 of the last 11, NCAA Outdoor Championships. Smith has been a part of each of the last four teams to qualify.
“We all knew as coaches that we had a better team than what we were doing [earlier this season], and each week we try to get a little better,” added Elliott when speaking to his relay’s performance. “Today we hit it when it counts. We still have another four days of competition [in Eugene], and there are some improvements we definitely will make.”
Hemmings returned to the track shortly after her relay appearance to contest the 100m hurdles, and exactly 12.94 seconds after the gun was fired, Hemmings crossed the line with a historic result. By running 12.94, Hemmings became Clemson’s fourth-fastest athlete ever in the event and solidified herself as a part of its long and storied hurdle history. Hemmings now joins Brianna Rollins, Bridgette Owens, and Keni Harrison as the only four athletes to record a wind-legal time under 13 seconds in the event while representing Clemson. After all qualifying heats had been contested, Hemmings slotted into the ninth position overall, a testament to the quality on display during Saturday’s competition.
The quarterfinals of the women’s 800m were historically fast, as all 12 qualifiers from the event ran sub-2:03 to secure their spots in Eugene. Amongst the qualifiers was Clemson’s Laurie Barton, Saturday’s winner of heat two and the second-fastest qualifier overall. Barton edged out her competition at the line to win the heat with a time of 2:01.23, while the heat’s second and third-place finishers crossed the line within twelve-hundredths of a second of Barton. The qualification earned from Saturday’s race makes Barton just the fifth woman in Clemson history to qualify in the event for both the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships during the same season.
Clemson saw Lakeisha Warner qualify for NCAA’s after running 57.34 to place third in her heat and seventh overall. Warner became Clemson’s first-ever three-time qualifier in the event, as the native of Tortola, BVI, has now qualified during the 2018, 2019, and 2021 seasons. Warner was joined in the event’s second heat by Nicolee Foster, as Foster finished 16th overall after running 58.42.
Smith returned to the track after being a part of the 4x100m relay to serve as Clemson’s lone entry in the 100m quarterfinals. Smith finished fourth in her heat, and 16th overall, after running 11.38 into a legal headwind. The women’s 4x400m relay closed out Saturday’s events, with the Tigers finishing 18th overall with a time of 3:38.35. Warner, Foster, Ken’Naria Gadson, and Kamryn McIntosh represented Clemson in the event.
The Tigers will now shift their focus to the upcoming 2021 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships hosted by the University of Oregon at the newly renovated Hayward Field from June 9-12.
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