SC State Tracksters Fail to Make Finals at NCAA Regionals

Friday, May 25, 2007

SC State Tracksters Fail to Make Finals at NCAA Regionals

GAINESVILLE, FL – South Carolina State’s Randy Gooden ran a personal best time of 51.57 in the 400 meter hurdles Friday, however, it was not fast enough to get the Bulldog senior to Saturday’s finals as his performance was only good enough for 12th place in the field where only the top eight advance.

Gooden, who received his bachelor’s degree two weeks ago, was second in his heat behind Hampton’s Andrew Peresta, who had the fastest time of the day with a 50.18. Gooden’s previous fastest time was a 51.80.

Also failing to make it to Saturday’s finals and a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championship were junior Natalie Dixon, who was perhaps SC State’s best hope to earn a spot in the finals but finished just 15th in the 400 meters with a clocking a 54.61 after entering the competition with a qualifying mark of 52.22, the fourth best time in the Region and the 7th best time nationally; and junior Garrett Blakely, 20th in the men’s 400 meters with a time of 48.29, well off his qualifying mark of 47.03.

The men’s 4x100-meter relay team, whose lineup had to be juggled when freshman Allen Hunter injured his quad in practice Thursday, also failed to advance as the Bulldogs finished well back in the competition at number 17 with a time of 41.70 after qualifying seventh in the Region with a clocking of 40.20.

Hunter, who usually runs the third leg of the race for Coach Ernest Tche’s team, was replaced by Gooden, whose best event is the hurdles.

Kenneth Rackins, the anchor during the Bulldogs’ qualifying mark Apr. 15 a the University of South Alabama (USA) Invitational, was shifted to the first leg, but was well-behind when he handed off to Shawn Sergeant who passed to Gooden who handed to Michael Brown, running anchor for the first time.

Coach Tche, who will be leaving at the end of his contract June 30, was disappointed that none of the SC State competitors earned a trip to the finals, although track officials said that Gooden is an alternate and could be inserted into Saturday’s competition depending upon certain circumstances.

“We didn’t have a very good day,” said Tche. “It was very disappointing that Natalie (Dixon) didn’t run better. Even it she didn’t finish in the top eight, if she had just finished 12th, she would have made the Championship as an at-large. She just didn’t finish the race strong.

“In the 400 meters,” he continued, “ Garrett (Blakely) was in good position after 200 meters but didn’t close well at all, and in the 4x100, Kenneth (Rackins) got off to a slow start and we were well behind when we made the first exchange and had too much ground to make up, especially without our regular lineup due to the injury to Allen (Hunter).

“Randy (Gooden) ran a strong race, but he hit two hurdles and that slowed his momentum and pushed him down a few places. If he had stayed with the Hampton runner (Peresta), he would have made the finals. But, he still has an outside chance to get in. He’s our best hope at the moment but we will not know for sure until after the officials’ meeting Saturday afternoon.”

If Gooden is allowed to compete in the 400-meter hurdles, the event will be run at 7:10 p.m. on Saturday, when the first running event is set for 5:30 p.m.