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RIDIN' THE STORM OUT: Four More Earn Berths in NCAA Track Finals

May 25, 2013

By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider

AUSTIN, Texas - After riding out a six-hour storm delay, Baylor came through with four more berths in the NCAA Championships on Friday in the second day of the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds.

Senior Skylar White earned her fourth straight trip to the NCAA Finals site with a third-place finish in the discus, and 400-meter hurdler Christina Holland earned a return trip, while junior Blake Heriot and freshman Olicia Williams also qualified for the outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore., on June 5-8.

"You live to see another day," said Heriot, who finished second in his heat of the 400 meters with a time of 46.51 seconds to advance with a top-12 finish, "and that's the main thing."

Through the first two days, Baylor has qualified six athletes to the NCAA Finals set - including three in throwing events.

"A lot of the ones that were seeded high, at least knowing you had a pretty good shot coming in, they did what was expected," said Baylor coach Todd Harbour. "There were a couple more where we were hopeful, but the bottom line is you've got to be spot-on. . . . Overall, just getting a few more punched to Oregon, that's a big deal."

With the first two flights of the women's discus completed, a lightning strike in the area of Mike A. Myers Stadium halted the competition at 1:45 p.m. The rain started less than 20 minutes later and continued off and on for the next five hours.

After the track was dried off, running events began about three hours late and finished well after midnight.

"We just tried to keep them moving a little bit, but it was a battle," Harbour said of the lengthy delay, "I thought our group did a good job of staying strong mentally and overcoming that."

Heriot, who missed qualifying by one spot a year ago, left no doubt this time by finishing second in his heat. Just as he did in Thursday's first round, he made up ground in the final 100 meters and moved up from sixth to second to earn the automatic qualifying spot.

"What we've been working on all year is execution, and I feel like I executed really well today," he said. "The time wasn't as fast as I wanted it to be, but the conditions are wet and it's kind of rainy. So, I felt like I ran a great race. . . . I knew what I had to get done - top 3 (in the heat) is the big thing, no matter what. The main thing I wanted to do is stay focused and not get out of my zone."

With a career-best time of 2:05.20, Williams finished third in her heat and qualified automatically for the NCAA Finals site. Part of a pack of six runners in the early stage of the race, Williams outsprinted Nebraska's Shawnice Williams down the stretch and edged her by six hundredths of a second for the eighth-fastest time overall and the second-best outdoors time in school history.

"I'm really happy and excited to see my hard work with coach Harbour in practice pay off," Williams said. "I'm just ready to run and go there and hopefully become an All-American. . . . I tried to kick the last 100 meters, but I had to go all the way out to Lane 3. I was just thinking, 'I've got to get there. I've got to make it.' I got there, so I was happy that I moved on."

Holland, still fueled by her ninth-place finish at last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships, said she is "coming back with a vengeance." Texas Danielle Dowie, who edged Holland for the eighth and final qualifying spot in last year's meet, got her again by winning the heat in 56.68.

"But this doesn't really matter," said Holland, who finished second in the heat with the eighth-fastest time overall in 57.26. "I'll see her again at nationals. . . . This weekend was about making it to nationals. I made it to the final, I made it to nationals, and that's all that matters."

In 10th until her final attempt of the day, White uncorked a throw of 177 feet, 4 inches to tie Wisconsin's Kelly Card for the third-best mark.

"I was almost going to be satisfied with 10th, but I said, 'No, I've got to do better than that,''' White said. "I knew I was not a 52-meter thrower, so I asked the Lord to let me have fun again. And on that last one, I had fun."

Baylor also had two athletes advance through the first round of competition. After falling short in the 100 meters earlier in the day, redshirt freshman Ashley Fields finished second in her heat with the eighth-fastest time in the 200 meters at 23.61.

Bryce Grace, another freshman, made it through the first round of the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.25 seconds despite finishing sixth in his heat.

Two other runners in the 200 meters narrowly missed spots in the second round. Justise Daryie's mark of 24.04 was six thousandths of a second out of a qualifying spot, while freshman Alex Reece missed it by one hundredth of a second with a time of 21.42.

Saturday's final day will start with field events at 12 noon and the running finals at 6 p.m. In addition to Fields and Grace, Baylor will have Blake Mayberry in the men's hammer throw, White in the shot put and freshmen Felix Obi and Brianna Richardson in the triple jump, along with the men's and women's 4x100 and 4x400 relays.

"So far, so good," Harbour said. "We've just got to keep it up and keep the momentum going. It's been a long two days already. . . . We've got great opportunities tomorrow to get a bunch more qualified."

Live results and heat schedules for the meet are available at www.texassports.com.

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