Texas Tech gains 3 All-Americans over the past week.
Two years ago, Cierra White and JaCorian Duffield were big catches for Texas Tech’s track and field recruiting class. They still had to go live up to the expectations.
And now they have.
White and Duffield each achieved first-team all-America status during Friday’s day three of the NCAA outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore., White with a sixth-place finish in the women’s 100 meters and Duffield with a seventh-place showing in the men’s high jump.
“I’m really proud of myself,” said White, a sophomore from Philadelphia. “It was a goal of mine for this season, so I’m just happy I could go out there and do it.”
Senior Isaiah Gill gave Tech three first-team all-Americans for the day and four for the meet, taking seventh in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, an event in which he had little background before this year.
The top eight finishers in each finals event receive first-team all-America recognition.
“I’m very pleased,” said Duffield, a sophomore from Universal City Randolph who tied a personal record by clearing 7 feet, 21/2 inches. “It’s been a rough year. I struggled a little bit at the beginning of outdoor. It was just good to finish on a good mark.”
Just like in the NCAA indoor meet three months ago, the NCAA outdoor also has been a stage for South Plains College alumni. Ex-Lady Texan Natoya Goule, now wearing the purple and gold of LSU, swept the 800-meter titles indoor and outdoor, winning Friday’s race in 2 minutes, 0.06 seconds. Her time was a personal best and the fourth fastest collegiate mark all-time.
SPC exes Anthony May and Sparkle McKnight also earned all-America honors, May clearing 7 feet, 4 1/4 inches to tie for fourth in the men’s high jump and McKnight running 56.16 for sixth in the women’s 400-meter hurdles. Both now compete for Arkansas.
In Thursday’s semifinal rounds, White missed making the finals of the 200 meters by one spot. That left the 100 as her chance to shine, and she tore down the Hayward Field straightaway in 11.32 seconds.
“I was disappointed about (the 200),” White said. “I really wanted to make it to the final. That just made me want to go out there and run even faster today and place pretty high.”
In the high jump, Duffield cleared 7-21/2 before exiting with three misses at 7-41/4. He made 7-21/2 on his first attempt, which gave him a tiebreaker edge over five others who cleared it on their second and third tries.
“I knew this was a bar that, if you got it on the first attempt, it could separate you to be an all-American,” Duffield said. “That was my goal, to get it on the first attempt. With somewhat good technique and faith in God, I was able to do it.”
With his father looking on, Duffield then barely missed on his second try at 7-41/4. He was rising from the mat before the bar fell.
“Usually, the ones like that, that I barely touch, I’m usually good at manipulating it over the bar,” he said. “But as soon as I started standing up, the bar started coming down.”
The 71/2 was a season best and matched his PR set last year.
Duffield came into the meet ranked tied for 27th in the nation, a group that included Tech teammate Bradley Adkins from Idalou. Adkins cleared 6-103/4 Friday before going out at 7-01/2.
Olympic bronze medalist Derek Drouin from Indiana won his fifth NCAA high-jump crown (three indoor, two outdoor) by clearing 7-8, beating Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard from Kansas State, who topped out at 7-7.
Gill followed Bryan Scott, Bryce Brown and Jamele Mason as Tech’s fourth all-American in the 400-meter hurdles since 2006, though Gill was perhaps the most unlikely. While the other three had backgrounds as star hurdlers from high school, Gill was primarily a 400-meter runner until Tech coaches nudged him toward the hurdles this year.
In the finals, the senior from Plainfield, N.J., ran 50.44, consistent with the times he’s been running this season. Southern Cal senior Reggie Wyatt won in 48.58, and second went to Kansas sophomore Michael Stigler (49.19), who used to compete in Lubbock during his days at Canyon High School.
Friday was the third of four days of NCAA championships competition. Tech made a mark on day one when Kole Weldon finished third in the shot put. The sophomore from Jacksboro was back in action Friday in the discus, settling for 14th with a mark of 185-9.
UCLA junior Julian Wruck won the discus with a throw of 213-1, two years after he was NCAA champion for Tech in the same event. Wruck left Tech with two years of eligibility remaining shortly after his 2011 NCAA title and competed in the 2012 Olympics for Australia.