“What an exciting day for these young women and our program,” head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert said. “Jackie (Coward) and the 4×100 ran very well today and that is a credit to hard work and perseverance. I am positive this meet is another step to building a championship program.
“All season we talked about teamwork and making sacrifices so mentally we were solid. It has been a season packed full of ups and downs, good days and bad days but in the end, our consistent hard work landed us among the top 20 programs in the U.S. and I am very proud of the Black and Gold,” Smith Gilbert added.
Running out of Lane 1, Coward got out of the blocks quickly, effortlessly clearing every hurdle. After clearing the final hurdle, Coward put on one last kick to the finish, slightly stumbling across the line third in 12.78. That time would easily be a new program record were it not for the wind readings of +2.1, just barely nullifying the time as the new UCF standard.Coward already owns the current record of 12.96, set earlier this season.
Last year, Coward placed fifth in the finals of this event in 13.04. Improving on that time and finish in 2011, Coward becomes the program’s first two-time outdoor First Team All-American.
The Knights’ 4×100-meter relay team began the afternoon with a fourth-place finish in the national final to earn five points towards the team total. Coward began the race, replacing the injured Dominique Booker in the first leg. She handed off to fellow two-time All-American Aurieyall Scott in the second leg. Lynne Layne made up ground on eventual champion LSU and second-place Texas A&M in the third 100-meter stretch.
Junior Sheila Paul, a Second Team All-American in the 100 meters, took the baton for the final leg. The Knights’ fourth runner was able to put some distance between herself and the fourth runner from Texas as she pulled away down the stretch. Paul crossed the line in 43.67, putting UCF ahead of teams from Texas, Florida State and Clemson. Conference USA foe Houston did not finish the final heat and failed to earn any team points. USC finished third, narrowly edging the Black and Gold.
It marks the first time in program history that any Knights’ relay team earned All-American honors. In all, UCF claimed All-American recognition in five events this weekend as Coward (100mH), Paul (100m) and the 4×100 all claimed one, while Scott (100m and 200m) finished with two.
The 17th-place finish is the highest ever for the Knights and a 29-spot improvement on last season’s 46th-place finish.