Unlike last year, which came down to the final few events, UCF’s outdoor track & field used a dominating final day at the 2011 Conference USA Championships to secure its second straight league title. Six event titles led the Knights to a program-record 157 points, including 143 on the final day at Rice’s Holloway Field/Ley Track.
The Knights now hold both the C-USA indoor and outdoor titles after having won indoors in February. For the second straight outdoor season and the third time in the last 12 months, Caryl Smith Gilbert was named the C-USA Coach of the Year for leading her team to a third league crown.
Jackie Coward was named the Performer of the Meet with two individual titles in the 100-and 400-meter hurdles. Freshman Aurieyall Scott was also honored with two individual awards as she was named the High Point Scorer and Freshman of the Meet. Scott was also the 2011 C-USA Indoor Track & Field Championship Freshman of the Meet in Houston earlier this year.
“This is the best championship we have won because we came together as a team and we fought for it,” Smith Gilbert said. “This is the first time that truly did that to win. Everybody was able to contribute. “I am very proud of the whole team, because we earned points in places that we didn’t expect. That is a testament to how these young women performed this weekend. Coach Chakouian and coach Brown did phenomenal jobs in preparing their athletes for this meet.”
Entering the day, the Knights sat 10th in the standings with just 14 points. SMU, which had 60 points entering Sunday, built their lead to an even greater figure, scoring in events in which there were no UCF athletes participating. That quickly changed once the Knights began to take to the track in the early evening.
The Knights’ 4×100-meter relay team earned 10 important points with an exciting first-place finish in the day’s first race. UCF’s Dominique Booker, Scott, Lynne Layne and Sheila Paul set a new C-USA Championship record as well as a new program mark to edge out Houston for the title in 43.42. The Cougars and Knights were neck-and-neck through the first two legs before Layne and Paul put some distance between the Black and Gold and second-place Houston to set the new record.
UCF solidified its championship with another first-place finish in the final event of the day: the 4×400-meter relay. Champelle Brown, Afia Charles, Sandy Jean and Erica Winston claimed the top spot in what was the most exciting race of the day. With the crowd on its feet as the teams came around the final turn and down the backstretch, Winston held off a late surge by the competition with a strong push to cross the line in 3:37.83.
For the second year in a row, Coward claimed the top spot in the 100-meter hurdles, posting a new meet record in the process of 12.97. That time was a thousandth of a second off her own school record set earlier this season.
But UCF did not get points from just Coward in the event, as the Knights owned all three spots on the podium with Mica Wimberly claiming the second spot and Karessa Farley taking third, both earning All-C-USA honors. Wimberly, who matched her personal best in the race, just edged Farley as both posted times of 13.41 to earn eight and six points, respectively. Ashley Bolling also scored for the Knights in the event, finishing fifth in 13.82 for the four points.
Coward became a two-time 400-meter hurdles C-USA champion with a meet record 57.59 in the finals. Her time also broke a UCF record she had set in mid-April of 57.78. Jean earned six points as she finished strong down the stretch to place third and earn all-conference honors in a personal-best and UCF freshmen record 58.84. Last year’s champion in the event, Aisha-Maree Frazier placed fifth in a season-best time of 1:00.31 to earn four points for her team.
Coward had previously won the title in the event as a freshman in 2009 as UCF has now won this event three straight seasons.
The Knights continued to own the sprints as Scott broke her one-day old school record in the 100 meters to take the league crown in 11.25. Scott qualified first on Saturday with a then-record time of 11.29, only to best that mark by four-thousandths of a second in the finals to take the top spot on the podium and 10 points for her team. Paul was second with a new personal best of 11.35 to pick up eight points. Booker just missed the podium with a fourth-place finish in a personal-best 11.45, while Layne picked up two points in seventh, running a 11.54 in the finals.
Scott would go on to claim the top spot in the 200 meters as well, making her a two-time C-USA Champion in her first season with the Knights. After winning the 100 meters, Scott moved on to take the top spot in the 200 with a 23.06. Paul earned six points as she finished third in a new personal-best mark of 23.53. Booker (4th, 23.63) and Layne (6th, 23.96) rounded out the event, earning five and three points, respectively.
UCF earned seven more points in the 400 meters as Charles ran the second-fastest time in the event ever by a Knight, crossing fourth in 53.73. Charles set the record of 53.60 on Saturday to qualify for Sunday’s final where she earned five points. Brown was seventh in 54.73 to claim two points.
Freshman thrower Satrina Oliveira opened her competition’s eyes as she moved from sixth on the pre-championship performance list to take third place and earn six points in the discus. Her personal-best throw of 148-08/45.32m in the final flight shot her up the list to earn all-conference honors. Fellow freshman thrower Destinee Romain finished second in the first flight with a distance of 135-03/41.22m, barely missing qualifying for the finals.
Pole vaulter Erica Weiss also stepped up her performance on the final day of competition, setting a new personal record to finish fourth. After cheering on her teammates and watching other events take place for three days, Weiss cleared a height of 12-3.50/3.75m on Sunday afternoon to earn the five points. Just last week at the UCF Twilight, Weiss had set her previous personal-best height of 12-1.25/3.70m, only to break that on the final day of the conference championship meet.
The triple jump saw the Knights add seven more points to their total late in the day as Jacquelyn Gilchrist set a personal record with a jump of 40-6.25/12.35m in Sunday’s final flight. Gilchrist placed fifth to earn four points, while Mica Wimberly was sixth overall in 39-8.50/12.10m to earn three points. Tomika Story was 10th in 38-4.25/11.69m.
Freshman Ne’Ausha Logan also earned a point as she finished eighth in the 800 meters in 2:11.79. Sunday’s championship marks the first time that a UCF coach has guided a team three straight championship titles.
After jumping out to a strong first day, SMU was not able to sustain the same level of scoring on Sunday, finishing second with 119 points. Houston (87 points), UTEP (74 points) and ECU (71.5 points) rounded out the top five. Houston’s men’s team took the league crown with 175 points in a field of just eight teams.
The Knights will now have an extended break before several members of the team will move on to the NCAA Regionals in Bloomington, Ind., in little over a week.