The day started off amid tears and smiles as the Knights’ senior class was recognized in its last meet at the UCF Track and Field Complex on Saturday. But the Knights quickly dried their eyes and turned their focus to their craft as they produced superior performances in the final day of the UCF Invitational.
Jackie Coward shined in a neck-and-neck first flight of the 100 hurdles. Coward hurled herself across the finish line but was .01 shy of first place overall with her time of 13.05 (+1.9) to rank second in the country.
“This is the fastest 100-hurdle opening race Jackie has ever had since she has been at UCF,” UCF head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert said. “It was nice to see her run well. She had a very good day.”
Because the time frame for qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials spans from May 1, 2011 – June 17, 2012, Coward has already clinched her spot to compete at the trials with her personal-best 12.87 at last year’s USA Track and Field Championships. Her performance Saturday again meets the provisional standard for the U.S. Olympic Trials and was .05 short of an automatic-qualifying time. Baylor’s Tiffani McReynolds clinched the new UCF Track and Field Complex record with the nation’s top mark of 13.04.
Senior Jacquelyn Gilchrist also made her last appearance at the UCF Track and Field Complex memorable by besting her personal record in the triple jump twice. She recorded 12.53m/41-1.50 (+0.6) on her very first attempt and topped it on her next try, settling for 12.56m/41-02.50 (+1.5) to finish seventh overall and among the top 15 in the country.
“Jacquelyn had a good effort today. We are increasing her triple jumps week by week so she can maintain a good performance by the end of the season,” Smith Gilbert said.
In her first-collegiate-outdoor 200M race, freshman Octavious Freeman clocked a wind-aided personal-best 22.92 (+2.8) for second place only to Olympian Abi Oyepitan and ahead of U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist DeeDee Trotter for the fastest time in NCAA. Sophomore Dominique Booker zipped to a time of 23.84 (+2.8) to rank among the top 25 in the country and seventh place in the event.
Afia Charles and Amanda Leland both clocked a wind-aided personal bests in the 200M with times of 24.10 and 24.62 (+2.4), respectively.
Booker also recorded a personal-best 11.44 (+2.0) in the 100 meters for fourth place and the fifth-best time in the country to pace six Knights in the race. Leland also finished among the top 10 with a wind-aided personal-best 11.74 (+3.4).
The 4×100 relay squad of Aurieyall Scott, Booker, Freeman and Coward rocketed to a second-place finish of 43.58 – a time that ranked third in the country at time of publication. The Knights were narrowly edged by Clemson by .08 for first place and the new UCF Track and Field Complex record.
For the second-consecutive week, freshmen Cody Castillo and Teresa Huff improved their personal bests in the 1500 meters, shaving their times to 4:44.48 and 5:07.73, respectively.
Satrina Oliveria finished third in her flight of the discus with a mark of 42.75m/140-03 for 11th overall as the Knights’ sole competitor in the event. Meanwhile, sophomore Destinee Romain (13.23m/43-05.00) and freshman Precious Ogunleye (12.80m/42-00) both improved upon their marks from the season opener in the shot put.
Prior to the meet, the Knights took time to recognize the Class of 2012 – Coward, Gilchrist, Sheila Paul, Aisha-Maree Frazier, Tomika Story and Karessa Farley – which will always hold a special place in Smith Gilbert’s heart.
“I didn’t expect it to be emotional, but all of a sudden it just hit me,” Smith Gilbert said. “They are the first class that I brought in and saw all the way through. I think that’s why it’s more emotional. I recruited them my first year and they’ve been with me through the last four years. It’s sad to see them all go.”
The Knights will enjoy a week off from competition as they prepare for the Pepsi Florida Relays held April 6-7 in Gainesville, Fla.
New UCF Track and Field Complex Records