May 29, 2010

By Jeff Hawkins
Special to

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - With the program's first national team title clinched before the women's 4 x 400 finale on Saturday night, Angelo State coach James Reid said he felt relaxed.

The feeling didn't last long.

It was quickly replaced by pure adrenaline watching senior Celethia Byrd run the best split of her career.

In one of the most thrilling races of the rain-delayed 2010 NCAA Division II women's outdoor track and field championships, Byrd turned a anchor-lap time of 52.5 seconds, sprinting three-wide to also clinch the program's first relay pennant.

"This is such a great story," Reid said.

After winning six of the past seven national team titles, Lincoln (Mo.) finished 15 points behind the Rams, 87-73.

St. Augustine (Raleigh, N.C.) collected 82 points as it claimed its 12th team title and second in a row. Abilene Christian was second with 62 points.

GOOD GENES - There's nothing like good genetics and a good work ethic.

University of California-San Diego sophomore Nick Howe credits his father, Ralph, for giving him both.

One year after placing 11th at nationals, Howe earned a men's javelin championship with a throw of 225 feet, a personal-best. How did he do it?

"Most of it is genetics," Howe said. "But no one works harder than I do."

Ralph Howe was a top U.S. javelin prospect in the 1990s, nearly qualifying for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

With Nick Howe now concentrating on qualifying for the U.S. Nationals in June, it looks like the family torch is being passed.

Howe's championship effort Saturday was preceded by a silent dedication to his father: "On my fifth throw, the one I PR'd, I was thinking of dad: 'This is for you.' "

JUST HAVIN' FUN - Chico (Calif.) State senior Katrina Rodriguez lived a cliché.

"When they say, 'I'm just happy to be here,' that's my face in the picture," Rodriguez said.

Unheralded entering the women's pole vault, Rodriguez pulled off one of the top upsets in the three-day event at Irwin Walker Track Complex. The entertainment started after her competition.

On the podium, Rodriguez choreographed the top eight finishers into a celebration leap and then flexing their combined muscles. Rodriguez clearly was happy to be there.

"I am having too much fun here," said Rodriguez, who used a pole Saturday she never used before.

After receiving her trophy and congratulations, Rodriguez ran back to collect her belongings. By herself and staring down the runway, she gleefully ran down and dived onto the padding. Next she was seen jumping up and down for joy.

RAINY DUEL - With rain making a brief appearance Saturday, Virginia State's Hoova Taylor and St. Augustine's Christopher Copeland engaged in an interesting men's high jump duel, culminating in a jump off.

A junior, Taylor cleared 2.12 meters on his 21st attempt to claim the title. Before Taylor's success, both missed on eight consecutive attempts. The 2010 indoor champion, Copeland came in second, despite five chances to clinch. On the sophomore's 19th attempt, he slipped on wet surface and slid into the padding.

In the women's event, defending champion Linda Rainwater of California-San Diego competed despite a stress fracture in a vertebra. The senior finished 11th as Emporia (Kan.) State junior Jennifer Robinson claimed the title (5-09¼).

INSIDE LANE - Rising Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, N.C.) junior Leford Green dominated the men's 400-meter hurdles, finishing at an impressive 48.67 ... Nebraska-Kearney junior Dane Tobey claimed the men's shot put with a toss of 62-07¼, establishing a school record ... University of Massachusetts-Lowell senior Jacqui Barrett's women's championship shot put toss (50-08¼) was the best in Div. II this season ... St. Cloud (Minn.) State senior Heather Miller won the women's triple jump (40-11½).