Cougars On Pace For Top-Five at NCAA Outdoor Championships

DURHAM -- Despite losing the overall team lead to UCLA, the BYU women's team picked up critical points in the 5,000 and the 800 meters on Friday to finish the third day of competition at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in second place with 31 points. UCLA picked up wins in the pole vault and shot put to take the overall team lead with 44 points, while Arkansas is in third with 29 points.

Melanie Steere ran a lifetime-best 2:03.40 in the 800 meters to score the first points of the day for BYU, placing sixth in Friday's final. Steere's finish was the highest by a BYU woman in the 800 meters since Julie Jenkins won the event in 1987, and was the second-fastest mark in school history behind Jenkins' 2:00.50

In the 100-meter hurdles semifinals, senior Kirsten Bolm was the last runner out of the starting blocks for the second consecutive qualifier, but managed to recover for a fourth-place finish in a time of 13.04. Her performance qualified her for Saturday's final. BYU record-holder Becky Jackson cleared 12'-04.50" in the pole vault, but was unable to score in the event. In 1998, the first year of women's pole vault competition, the winning height was 12'-05". In 1999, the winning height improved to 13'-05". In 2000, the trend continued with UCLA's Tracy O'hara winning the competition with an NCAA meet record 14'-05".

Two days after taking the top spots in the 10,000-meter final, Tara Northcutt and Marty Hernandez teamed up again in the 5,000-meter final. Hernandez followed up her second-place finish in the 10,000 with a fourth-place showing in the 5,000 in 16:11.98. With the five points, Hernandez became BYU's leading scorer for the meet with 13 points. She also put the Cougars ahead of last year's finishing score of 28, good for an eighth-place finish. Northcutt was unable to repeat as NCAA champion, finishing in 13th position with a time of 16:46.68.

"You can see how Tara, who's younger than Marty, wasn't able to recover as well from the 10K fast enough," said women's distance coach Patrick Shane. "Marty has the experience and strength, while Tara just needs a couple more years. That's the difference right there. That was a big, gutty performance by Marty, coming back to score some big points for us."

Up for the Cougars on the final day of competition are Bolm in the 100-meter hurdles final, Susan Taylor in the 1,500 and Sharolyn Shields in the 3,000.

"We'll score in all three events tomorrow," said Shane. "Susan is a serious threat to win, and both she and Sharolyn are healthy and ready to go. Unless they get knocked down, they'll run well."

In men's action, junior Kenneth Andam failed to advance to the finals of the 100 meters with a sixth-place finish in the second heat of today's semifinals. Auburn's Coby Miller turned in the fastdst 100-meter time of the day and will enter Saturday's final as the man to beat with an impressive 9.88.

After five events in the decathlon, freshman Curtis Pugsley produced 3,972 points and ranks fourth in the standings entering the final day of competition. Pugsley picked up 810 points in the 100 meters with a 11.23 finish, 811 points in the long jump with a mark of 6.99 meters, 647 points in the shot put with a put of 12.66 meters, 878 points in the high jump with a clearing height of 2.08 meters and 826 points with a 49.75 finish in the 400 meters. The decathlon will conclude on Saturday with competition in the 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1500 meters.

After sitting through the previous three days of competition, senior Marc Chenn will get his chance to perform in the high jump, beginning at 5:30 p.m. (MDT) on Saturday.