Saunders Finishes as NCAA Long Jump Silver Medalist
EUGENE, Ore. - Kentucky's Sha'Keela Saunders finished as the National Silver Medalist in the long jump to score eight points during the first day of the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Wednesday.
The freshman - who was the East Region Champion two weeks ago with a school-record mark of 21-feet, 1¼ inches/6.43 meters - equaled that mark on her third attempt. The jump proved to be her best of the evening as she reached 20-5¾/6.24m three times, and soared 20-11¼/6.38m on her final attempt.
Saunders became Kentucky's highest-ever finisher in the NCAA long jump. Ola Sesay, whose school record Saunders broke, was sixth in 1999.
"I jumped far at Regionals, but this performance showed that the strength is there. It wasn't luck. I was hoping I could do it again just to prove to myself that I could break that barrior and move to the next level. It was a wonderful experience.
"I had never heard such a loud echo on claps from the crowd for long jump. Usually people are looking at a race or something during long jump, and it's hard to get their attention. I loved the crowd's energy and it helped me."
Saunders entered the final three attempts tied for the lead with Oregon's Jenna Prandini, but the Duck sophomore recorded the winning mark of 21-6/6.55m on her fifth attempt.
Three Wildcats advanced to running-event finals on Wednesday. UK sent five entries into preliminary competition on Wednesday.
"Day one was pretty good," head coach Edrick Floréal said. "We got two in the women's 400m hurdles final, Keffri Neal into the 800m final and a freshman taking second in the long jump. I thought we had a chance to win the long jump, but when you've never been there before and you come out and score eight points it's pretty special. Most people in that moment kind of fall apart, so I'm really proud of that effort."
Two Wildcats advanced to the 400m hurdles final as Kendra Harrison was the top qualifier with a time of 55.56. Leah Nugent was third in her heat, but advanced on time in 57.15.
Keffri Neal cruised into the 800m final with a prelim-winning time of 1:49.30.
The Wildcats will get back into action on Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET as Madison Jacobs and Rebecca Famurewa will compete in the second flight of the women's discus.
Allison Peare and Matt Hillenbrand will be in the women's and men's 1,500m prelims, Kayla Parker and Harrison will be in the 100m hurdles prelims and the women's 4x400m relay will also attempt to qualify for the NCAA Final.
UK sprinter Dezerea Bryant scratched from the women's 100m with a foot injury.
Angelica Whaley ran 54.55 in the women's 400m semifinal to place 23rd overall. She DID not advance to the final.
Kenyattia Hackworth's best jump was 19-7/5.97m (w:+2.2) on her second attempt. She placed 11th in the first flight and did not advance.
Rebecca Famurewa placed 21st in the hammer throw with a mark of 184-7/56.27m.