May 31, 2001
EUGENE, Ore. -- Baylor's women's 4x400-meter relay turned in the second-fastest time in school history here Thursday to advance to the finals at the 2001 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships hosted by the University of Oregon at legendary Hayward Field.
Tiffany Wise, Chava Demart, Keisa Brown and Barbara Petrahn combined for a time of three minutes, 31.41 seconds, the seventh-fastest time of the semifinals. Only the 1998 NCAA runner-up quartet of Angelique Banket, Alayah Cooper, Yulanda Nelson and Jennifer Jordan have run faster in the 4x400 at 3:29.11, also at the NCAA Championships.
Baylor's women entered as the 12th-ranked team in the NCAA, however, they will be one of eight teams vying for the national title Saturday night. Texas turned in the top time of the semifinals, in which the top two teams in each of two heats automatically advanced along with the next four fastest times.
"We realize we can run with these teams," Brown said. "We're just like they are. We just have to do the best we can Saturday."
Petrahn pointed out that Baylor's time would have been the second-fastest time in the nation prior to this meet, meaning six other teams that advanced also ran their fastest marks of the season.
"Everybody ran fast," Petrahn said. "Our team was really ready for the NCAAs."
Meanwhile, the men's 4x400-meter relay team also advanced to Saturday's finals, which will be the meet's final event. Zsolt Szeglet, Michael Smith, Floyd Thompson and Brandon Couts combined for a clocking of 3:02.82, the third-fastest time of the semifinals. Louisiana State was fastest, followed by the Auburn team that barely edged the Bears in the second of two heats. Baylor chose not to run Bayano Kamani in effort to keep him fresh for Friday's 400-meter hurdles finals.
Baylor will also be represented in both finals of the 400 meters Saturday. In the men's semifinals, Couts proved his worth with an advancing time of 46.06 seconds. After entering ranked 19th nationally in the event, Couts, the 1999 Indoor National Champion in the 400, posted the sixth-fastest time of the semifinals. The mark was his third-best of the season, just off the 46.04 clocking in winning the Texas Invitational in early May.
Szeglet, who defeated Couts for the Big 12 400-meter crown two weeks ago, did not advance to the semifinals. He ran a time of 46.34 seconds in the second of three heats. That mark was 12th overall in the semifinals, Szeglet entered ranked 11th nationally.
Also failing to qualify for the finals was Ohio State's Andrew Pierce, who was the runner-up at the Indoor National Championships. With indoor champion Rickey Harris of Florida and Kamani, who finished third at indoors, only running the intermediate hurdles, none of the top three finishers from the indoor meet will be in the outdoor finals.
On the women's side, Petrahn advanced in the women's 400 meters with the sixth-fastest time of the semifinals at 52.44 seconds. Petrahn, the Big 12 champion in the event, finished second to Moushaumi Ramsey of Texas in the first of four heats, but advanced on time. She entered ranked third nationally in the 400.
"We're getting everybody in, and that's good," Baylor head coach Clyde Hart said. "There have been a lot of teams this weekend that haven't gotten their people to the finals. We're going to be as well represented on the track in the finals as anyone here. We didn't run Kamani on the relay, and that paid off. He'll be fresh for his hurdles final tomorrow, and then we'll bring him back for the relay final."
Action will continue here Friday as Kamani and Smith will run the finals of the men's 400-meter hurdles. Kamani will be looking for his second national title in that event in three years, he was the runner-up last season. Demart will also be in the finals of the women's 400-meter hurdles, and Thompson will be in the finals of the men's 800 meters. Kerry O'Bric will begin competition in the heptathlon, in which she finished sixth last year.