EUGENE -- BYU junior Jeff Hansen recorded the Cougars' first points of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Wednesday, taking second place in the pole vault competition. Hansen turned in an 18'02.5" vault to set a life-time best and BYU record for the second straight meet.
"I was really tense and just trying to hard early in the competition," said Hansen. "But I was able to settle down and just relax and nail my steps. It was anyone's competition to win at the end. Of course I would like to have won, but I'm still pretty excited about the way things turned out."
Hansen, a transfer from the University of Arizona, faced an early exit after twice failing to clear 17'04.5". On his third and final vault, Hansen cleared the bar with ease and went on to clear 17'10.5" and 18'02.5" without a single error. Despite narrowly missing on his first attempt at 18'06.5", the Parma, Idaho native was unable to clear the height, opening the door for USC's Dennis Kholev to win the event at 18'06.5".
"Jeff is really unbelievable," BYU head men's track coach Mark Robison said. "For him to be almost out of the competition at one point and then to turn it around and be in a position to win the thing is incredible. He beat some great athletes today. I'm just tickled pink."
In other men's action, Curtis Pugsley, who has been slowed the past few weeks by a lower abdominal strain, sits in 11th place after the first five events in the decathlon. After falling to 13th place after the shot put, Pugsley climbed back in to eighth place with 831 points and a third-place finish in the high jump, but would then drop back to 11th overall after the 400 meters. The decathlon will conclude on Thursday with the final five events.
Kenneth Andam, who was a late entry in the 200-meter semifinals, failed to advance to Saturday's finals after posting a 20.66 in the event. Andam's time was just .19 seconds behind the final qualifier. Three of the this year's fastest times were posted during the event, led by Tennessee's Justin Gatlin who recorded a 19.86 to mark this year's fastest time in the world.
Junior Mao Tjiroze advanced to Saturday's 800-meter final with a time of 1:48.01 in the event, finishing third in his heat. Tjiroze's time was the third fastest qualifying time of the afternoon.
On the women's side, junior Holly Haguewood became the first to advance to the finals, despite finishing last in the first heat of the women's 800 meters. Haguewood and Florida sophomore Kamille Bratton both tripped on an unsecured section of the rail that runs along the inside lane of the track as they rounded the turn for the homestretch in the first lap. While Bratton did not finish, Haguewood got up and finished the race, crossing the line in 2:21.28, well behind the race leaders. After the event, BYU head women's coach Craig Poole protested the heat, and meet officials decided to advance both women to Friday's final due to an improperly mounted rail.
"It was an unfortunate incident," said BYU distance coach Patrick Shane. "But they did the right thing in allowing both athletes to compete in the finals. It's only fair that they have a chance to run the race again."
In addition to qualifying Haguewood, the Cougars placed three athletes in the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Sophomore Nan Evans led the way in the first heat of the semifinals, winning her race in a time of 10:11.54. Teammate Courtney Meldrum crossed the line in third in the same heat in 10:12.77. American record-holder Elizabeth Jackson finished second in the other semifinal with a time of 10:11.94.
While BYU will benefit from having three runners in Friday's steeplechase final, senior All-American Tara Haynes will be noticeably absent from the event. As runners jostled for position in the early laps of the second semifinal, Haynes stepped on the inside rail and severely sprained her ankle. Despite continuing the race for several laps in obvious pain and closing the gap on the pack, the repeated pressure of landing after clearing the hurdles forced Haynes to withdraw from the competition.