Elizabeth Jackson accepts her individual NCAA Championship for her victory in the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase competition. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
EUGENE -- Entering Friday's competition, favored to win the first-ever women's 3,000-meter steeplechase competition in NCAA history, senior Elizabeth Jackson lived up to the billing by winning her first national championship in a new American record, 9:49.73. Teamates Courtney Meldrum and Nan Evans finished fourth and fifth, respectively, to pick up a total 17 team points in the event. Jackson's performance ranks as the third fastest time ever recorded in the world.
"I didn't think it was a given that I would win, considering there were so many great athletes out there today," Jackson said. " If I was going to win, I knew I would have to go out and work for it. It meant a lot to have my teammates out there with me today and to have them finish so well, makes me happy for them."
Jackson was in 11th place after the first 650 meters and began to make her move heading into the back stretch, moving up to seventh place. After the second lap, Jackson was in third, but again made a move in the backstretch, taking over the lead from Arkansas' Lilli Kleinmann. Jackson would not relinquish the lead as Arizona State's Kelly MacDonald and Weber State's Rebecca Bennion would each take a shot at the world's second-ranked steeplechaser. With one lap to go, Jackson extended her 10-meter lead to more than 20 meters, sprinting down the back stretch to clip nearly six seconds off the old American record.
Meldrum and Evans made a strong push down the home stretch to finish fourth and fifth, with Evans slipping by Arkansas Little Rock's Ida Nilsson to take fifth place. Both Meldrum and Evans join Jackson as three of only seven women ever to eclipse the 10-minute barrier in the event.
"We had hoped things would turn out this way," distance coach Patrick Shane said. "With this many athletes breaking the 10-minute mark, this was certainly the fastest race in the steeplechase ever. This really gives the event credibility."
Junior Holly Haguewood, who advanced to Friday's final in the 800 meters as a result of protest, picked up the Cougars' first points of the meet with an eighth-place finish. Haguewood, who had been knocked down by Florida's Kamille Bratton on Wednesday, turned in a 2:09.76 to pick up a point for BYU.
Freshman Missy Wood finished 20th in the javelin with a mark of 136'06.00", while Maret Komorava, the only freshman in the heptathlon, ended day-one of the competition with 2,898 points, trailing the leader, Austra Skujyte of Kansas State, by 596 points.
In men's action, junior Mao Tjiroze was just off his life-time best by .66 seconds to pick up sixth place in the 800 meters with a time of 1:47.94. After the first 400 meters Tjiroze was in seventh place and began to pick up the pace at the 550-meter mark, passing Eliud Njubi of TCU on the final turn. A strong stride to the finish line held off Penn's Sam Burley, who finished .50 seconds behind Tjiroze, while Njaubi finished in 8th.
Fighting a 1.5 meters-per-second head wind, senior Kenneth Andam turned in a 11.28 in the second heat of the men's 100-meter semifinals to qualify for Saturday's final. Andam, who was running in lane two, benefited from a quick start to hold off a surging field for a third-place finish. Andam will enter Saturday's final ranked 6th and will run in lane seven, beginning at 5:50 p.m. (PDT).
After third day of competition the BYU men's team is in 16th place with 11 points, while Oregon leads the competition with 27 points. In the women's competition, by virtue of a strong finish in the steeplechase, BYU is in fifth place with 20 points, while USC leads with 40 points.
OF NOTE: Tara Northcutt suffered from asthma symptoms during the 10,000 meters on Thursday and was unable to successfully defend her 10K title ... With a ninth-place finish in the 10,000 meters, sophomore Lindsey Thomsen earned outdoor All-America honors for the first time in her career.