FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Before lightning put a stop to Wednesday’s action at the 2009 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships, lightning struck the track in the form of LSU senior Trindon Holliday as the Zachary native showed just why he is a NCAA favorite in the 100-meter dash by clocking a new personal-best time in the first round of qualifying.
Holliday, who took his mark in the first of four preliminary heats, exploded out of the blocks and raced across the finish line with a new wind-legal personal record of 10.00 seconds to advance to the NCAA semifinal with the fastest time of the opening round at John McDonnell Field.
His performance is the fifth-fastest time in the world this season and lowers his previous personal best of 10.01 that he set in winning his second career SEC title in the event back on May 17.
In fact, Holliday was one of three competitors to run 10.04 or faster in the preliminary round with Clemson standout and NCAA Indoor 60-meter champion Jacoby Ford clocking a legal 10.01 and Mississippi State superstar freshman D’Angelo Cherry winning his heat in 10.04.
But as Holliday prepared to run in the semifinals scheduled for later in the evening, the campus at the University of Arkansas was hit with severe lightning and thunderstorms that forced the rest of Wednesday’s events to be delayed for more than three hours. After being delayed at 7:03 p.m. CT following the 400 hurdles, action resumed at 10:15 p.m. with the prelims of the 400-meter dash.
Although the semifinal round of the men’s 100 meters was scheduled to run at 7:40 p.m., the race was pushed back to 10:55 p.m. to allow the athletes a chance to warm up following the delay.
Holliday responded by clocking the fastest time of the semifinal time at 10.14 into a headwind. It marks the third-straight year that Holliday has qualified for the NCAA final in the 100-meter dash as he seeks his first career NCAA title in the event.
“The coaches were telling me that I should have broke 10, but I just wanted to be smart and focus on getting to the final,” Holliday said. “I’m not mad at myself at all. Coach (Dennis) Shaver told me just to come out today and be smart through these two rounds and get to the final. That’s what the first day is all about. I wasn’t worried about anything but that.
“I feel very good about where I am with one race to go. It’s going to be a fast final because we’ve got a lot of guys here who love to compete. I’m one of those guys.”
A pair of Lady Tigers also qualified for the 100-meter final to be run on Friday as both Kenyanna Wilson and Samantha Henry automatically advanced from the second of two semifinal heats after the weather delay. Wilson finished second in the heat while running 11.42 into a headwind, while Henry followed closely in third place in the heat with a time of 11.44.
In fact, four Lady Tigers ran in the semifinal round of the 100 meters after qualifying with PRs in the first round. Henry clocked a wind-legal personal best of 11.14, while Wilson followed closely behind with a blistering time of 11.20 with a legal tailwind.
In addition, senior Monique Cabral matched her personal best in the qualifying round with a time of 11.45 before finishing 14th in the semifinals, and junior Kristina Davis set a new PR of 11.49 in the opening round before placing 17th in her first career appearance at the NCAA Championships.
LSU enjoyed an outstanding day of qualifying before the weather delay with sophomore standout Walter Henning kicking off the day by qualifying for the final of the men’s hammer throw.
Henning, who entered the meet ranked No. 2 in the NCAA with a seasonal-best throw of 235 feet, 11 inches, set the tone for his NCAA championship run with the best throw of the day at 229-0 on his first attempt to qualifying automatically for the hammer final to be held Friday afternoon.
A pair of LSU jumpers also qualified for the finals of their respective events Wednesday as senior Jeremy Hicks advanced to the final of the men’s long jump with a mark of 25-7 ½ on his final jump of the qualifying round and sophomore Brittani Carter was one of 16 qualifiers for the finals of the women’s high jump after clearing the bar at 5-9 ¾.
Both the Tigers and Lady Tigers clocked 2009 seasonal-best times in the preliminary round of the 4x100-meter relay to easily qualify for Friday’s nine-team final in the event.
The Lady Tigers were the first to step onto the track and ran away from the rest of the field to win their preliminary heat with a seasonal best effort of 43.20. Cabral, freshman Cassandra Tate, Henry and Wilson cruised to victory over Baylor (44.04) in the first preliminary heat with the No. 2 time of the qualifying round behind only the team from Texas A&M (42.93).
The Tigers followed with a seasonal best performance of their own as the team of Barrett Nugent, Will Coppage, Armanti Hayes and Holliday qualified for the final with the third-fastest of the day with a 38.72. LSU was second in its heat behind the squad from Texas A&M (38.51).
The Lady Tigers opened the competition with more entries in the 800 meters than any other squad in the meet, and all three advanced to the NCAA semifinal to be run Thursday.
With the top-three finishers in each of the four preliminary heats advancing to the semifinal round on Thursday, junior All-American and 2008 NCAA runner-up LaTavia Thomas clocked a time of 2 minutes, 5.33 seconds to finish second in her heat, while junior Kayann Thompson took third in her qualifying heat with a time of 2:05.49. Sophomore Brittany Hall advanced to the semifinals of the 800 meters based on time by finishing fourth in her heat at 2:06.07.
Not to be outdone, junior Richard Jones qualified for the semifinal of the men’s 800 meters with a new personal best time of 1:47.62 to finish third in his qualifying heat.
The Tigers also saw freshman All-American Robert Simmons win his preliminary heat of the 400 meters with a time of 46.13 to advance to the semifinal round on Friday night. Simmons seeks his second All-American honor of his rookie season following a fourth-place finish in the event at the NCAA Indoor Championships back in March.
Freshman Rachel Laurent was LSU’s last finals qualifier during Wednesday’s competition as she was one of 16 athletes to advance to the pole vault final to be held Friday.
LSU will return to action at the 2009 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Thursday at 4:45 p.m. as Hicks will compete in the final of the men’s long jump. Live scoring of the meet can be provided by Flash Results and can be found online at www.flashresults.com.