June 10, 2010

Doug Binder, Special to NCAA.com

EUGENE, Ore. - Florida sophomore Christian Taylor produced the three longest jumps of the triple jump competition and earned a standing ovation after his victory Wednesday at the NCAA Division I Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field.

Taylor, who figures prominently in Florida's plans to win the men's team title, helped get the Gators started. He jumped 56 feet, 1 inch on his final attempt to win the competition by more than two feet.

Many in the crowd are longing for an Oregon team victory, but gave it up for Taylor, who took the lead on his fourth attempt and increased it on his fifth and sixth tries.

"This is the best atmosphere I've ever jumped in, and I want to thank Oregon for that," Taylor said. "I thought there would be a lot of people against (me), but this is Track Town, U.S.A and they're really for track and field, and that means a lot, so I really appreciated it."

The triple jump was pivotal in the race for the team title between Florida and Texas A&M. Taylor's first-place finish and teammate Omar Craddock's sixth gave the Gators 13 points.

Meanwhile, Tyron Stewart and Zuheir Sharif placed second and third for Texas A&M, the reigning team champion, scoring a combined 14 team points.

Texas A&M leads the team competition entering Friday. Florida is second and Arizona State is one point behind, with 12, in third place.

Taylor jumped a wind-legal 55-10 ┬╝ on his fifth attempt. His winning mark was wind-aided.

Taylor will run a leg on Florida's favored 4x400 relay team on Thursday and in a contender to win the long jump on Friday.

Unseasonably cool, wet and windy conditions accompanied the first day of competition in Eugene. It poured, at times, and there were also periods of sun.

Oklahoma sophomore Will Claye, the 2009 champion, was 10th in the triple jump prelims and did not advance to the finals.

In the only other men's final Wednesday, Arizona State senior Ryan Whiting moved to the top of the leader board in the discus on his fifth attempt and won the competition with a throw of 193-9.

Whiting has won three NCAA shot put titles (two indoor, one outdoor), but lost the 2009 discus title by an inch at Fayetteville, Ark.

Kansas freshman Mason Finley led the competition at the end of the three preliminary rounds with a mark of 191-5. The U.S. high school record holder fouled two of his final three attempts and settled for second.

"I've been throwing well in practice," Whiting said. "(The big throw) came at the right time."

Whiting won the Pac-10 Conference title on his sixth attempt, so pulling out a big throw wasn't a new experience.

"I was kind of worried, but I've thrown farther before so I knew it was in there," he said. "I just didn't want to lose by an inch again."

One of the event's top contenders, BYU's Leif Arrhenius, fouled all three of his throws in the prelims and did not advance.

There were a few other disappointments Wednesday as well. USC's Ahmad Rashad, the 2009 runner-up in the 100 meters, false started and failed to advance out of the prelims.

Mississippi State's 4x100 relay team, seeded fifth nationally, was seventh in the first heat and did not advance.