June 10, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa - Jessica Beard accomplished her goal of winning the NCAA Outdoor Championship in the 400 meters on Friday evening with a time of 51.10 seconds on a wet track in front of 7,423 fans at Drake Stadium.

The rest of the evening had the Aggie women claiming nine other points in two finals. Daphne Fitzpatrick placed fourth for five points in the heptathlon while Andrea Sutherland scored four points in the 400 hurdles with a fifth-place finish.

The A&M women are currently in fourth place with 23 points through 14 finals. Oregon leads the field with 33 points ahead of 29 by Oklahoma and 25 for Stanford.

It appears the women team title chase will come down between Oregon and Texas A&M. The Aggies have the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays on Saturday along with Jeneba Tarmoh in the 200 meters.

The Ducks counter with the 4 x 400 relay along with Jordan Hasay and Becca Friday in the 1,500 as well as the duo of Melanie Thompson and Claire Michel in the steeplechase. Each of those individual races for Oregon have 14 entrants, so there are no guaranteed points.

For the A&M men points were attained in the 100 and 400 finals. Gerald Phiri placed fourth in the 100 and Prezel Hardy finished eighth for six points in the 100. In the 400 five points came from the tandem of Demetrius Pinder, who placed fourth in a tight finish, and Bryan Miller, who finished seventh.

The Aggies have 22 points for seventh place status through 14 of 21 finals. Florida State leads the team battle with 29 points over 28 for Virginia Tech and Florida in a tie for second place.

A three-team battle between Texas A&M, Florida and Florida State is still in play on the men's side. The Aggies have both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays along with three entrants in the triple jump as well as Wayne Davis II in the 110 hurdles and Tran Howell in the 200.

Beard won both NCAA titles in the 400 during her senior year, winning the indoor crown on A&M's home track and the outdoor version in Des Moines.

"I wanted to get 10 points for my team," Beard said. "Of course I could have run faster, but whatever time it takes for me to be in first place and score 10 points is what I'll take.

"I'm really thankful. It was the calmest I've been for a final. I'm just really happy that the race turned out the way it did. Hopefully we are still in it for the team championship."

Starting in lane five Beard felt the presence of Auburn's Joanna Atkins early from lane four. Atkins made up the stagger on Beard with a stern first 200 meters. Bidding her time, Beard pounced on the field with 180 remaining.

"Coach Anderson told me she would do that since Joanna can run 22 in the 200," explained Beard. "So, I already knew she had a lot of foot speed. I just had to remain calm. As long as she hadn't passed me before I got off the curve I figured it was going to be guts versus guts to the end. She is a great competitor."

Coming into the homestretch Beard's lead stretched to four tenths of a second over Atkins while Kansas frosh Diamond Dixon placed third in 51.88.

"Oh, it was a great feeling heading down the homestretch in the lead," exclaimed Beard. "I couldn't even look at the clock, I was just wanting to know where is the finish line. Once I hit it I was elated."

The time by Beard lowered her collegiate leading mark from the 51.24 she recorded in the semifinal. Her 51.10 clocking is 12th in the world for the 2011 season and sixth among Americans. It's also the sixth fastest performance on the A&M all-time list.

Beard's day started with 4 x 400 qualifying in the third heat of the semifinal at 11 a.m. as the meet was suspended with lightning delays the previous day.

"I think running the 4x400 semifinal earlier in the day prepared me for the 400 final," noted Beard. "I split under 51 flat in the relay and I felt pretty good about it. I was mentally prepared for it and took all the steps in getting treatment from our trainers in between the races."

Fitzpatrick began the second day of the heptathlon in fifth place, dropped to eighth after a long jump of 18-3 (5.56) and then moved back up to fifth following a javelin toss of 132-4 (40.34).

Going into the final event, the 800 meters, Fitzpatrick only trailed fourth place by 14 points. With a run of 2:19.00 in the two-lap race for 837 points, Fitzpatrick finished with a score of 5,599 points to claim fourth place.

"It's great I was able to do that for the team," said Fitzpatrick. "Going into the javelin I knew I could get some points back. Then to finish so strong in the 800, I just couldn't give up. My worst event (800m) turned out to be my best event today."

Fitzpatrick's total is her third best score this season and is the fourth-best performance on the Aggie all-time list. Fitzpatrick set the school record with 5,811 points during the Big 12 Championships.

"It's a great accomplishment," Fitzpatrick added. "I'm glad I was able to contribute points. Anything can happen tomorrow."

Sutherland placed fifth in the final of the 400 hurdles amid a heavy rain and clocked a time of 57.29. Miami's Ti'erra Brown won the race in 55.65 while UCLA's Turquiose Thompson finished second with the same time, but was 0.004 behind Brown.

LSU initially scored in the event with Cassandra Tate placing fifth in 56.04, but she was disqualified for running out of her lane.

Texas A&M men picked up six points in a very fast men's 100 final. Phiri posted a 10.15 for fourth place as Hardy, Jr. finished ninth in 10.40.

Florida State scored 16 points behind a collegiate and championship meet record of 9.89 from long jump winner Ngonidzashe Makusha and Maurice Mitchell placing third in 10.00.

Big 12 champion Mookie Salaam of Oklahoma finished as runner-up in 9.97 while Florida's Terrell Wilks placed fifth in 10.19 for four Gator points.

A very close finish in the men's 400 initially had Alabama's Kirani James edging out Texas Tech's Gil Roberts for the victory with both runners clocking 45.10. Roberts was later disqualified for a lane violation.

Initially sixth in 45.23, Pinder moved up to fourth while Miller improved to seventh with a 45.80. Florida's Tony McQuay also benefitted from the DQ by placing second at 45.14 ahead of Oregon's Mike Berry, who nabbed bronze in 45.18.

"It was a competitive field and everyone was giving it their all," said Pinder. "They were just better on this day. Now I need to relax the mind and come back tomorrow for the relays."

Sasha-Kay Matthias placed 12th in the triple jump with a mark of 41-10.5 (12.76).

4 x 400 qualifying Texas A&M completed Thursday evening events that were suspended due to rain and lightning on Friday morning with a pair of heat victories in the 4 x 400 relay.

The Aggie women were in the only heat not completed on Thursday. They posted a winning time of 3:29.34, the fastest qualifying time, behind an anchor leg of 50.95 seconds from Jessica Beard.

For the Aggie men a time of 3:03.48 won the second heat and was the second fastest time overall, behind a 3:03.39 by Mississippi State. Finishing second in the heat was Arkansas (3:04.05) with Delaware State (3:04.22) in third.

Florida advanced on time as the last qualifying team with a third-place 3:04.43 in the third heat, which was won by Mississippi State while Baylor claimed second with a 3:03.69. Also making the final were LSU (3:04.38) and Texas Tech (3:04.52).

Finishing behind A&M women in the third heat of the relay was Auburn in 3:30.62 while the third and fourth place teams, Florida (3:31.06) and North Carolina (3:31.67), claimed the two final positions based on time. That knocked LSU (3:32.88) and Arizona (3:33.00) out of the final.

The other qualifiers for the women's final include Oregon (3:31.04), Penn State (3:31.76), Tennessee (3:32.98) and Kansas (3:33.31).

Running on the relay for the Aggie women were Andrea Sutherland (52.5), Ibukun Mayungbe (52.9), Ashley Collier (52.89) and Beard.

The men's foursome included Joey Roberts (46.9), Tran Howell (45.4), Michael Preble (45.62) and Tabarie Henry (45.60).