Shauna Smith Wins 400-Meter Hurdle Title at NCAA Midwest Regional

May 28, 2005

NORMAN, Okla. -

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Four Wyoming athletes guaranteed themselves a ticket to NCAA Nationals as they completed competition at the 2005 Midwest Regional, in Norman, Okla., on Saturday. Senior Shauna Smith grabbed her first ever Midwest Regional Championship in the 400-meters hurdles, while three other athletes finished in the top-five in their respective events to qualify for nationals.

The race of the day came in the 400-meter hurdles final as Smith entered the race with the second fastest time coming out of the preliminaries, behind only Melaine Walker of Texas. Smith got out to a good start and led most of the first 200-meters before Walker caught her on the third turn. As they both started to come down the home stretch, Walker led by about a step with Smith starting her usual final burst. As they approached the final hurdle they were neck and neck with Smith looking to retain her lead. As they went over the final hurdle, Walker caught her foot on the hurdle and went to the ground, giving Smith the victory in 54.37.

"It feels great to win, obviously," said a tired Smith. "It was great to be pushed and win with a new personal record."

"Shauna ran an unbelievable race," said UW head coach Don Yentes. "I think she would have caught Walker without the fall, but besides that Shauna won the race and earned it herself."

This new personal record for Smith is also a new UW school record, breaking her own old record of 54.42 which she ran last year at the Olympic Trials. With her time, Smith also set a new Midwest Regional Meet record, new John Jacobs Track record, formerly held by Australian Olympic Gold Medalist Kathy Freeman, and a new Mountain West Conference Record.

Senior Jessica Fox earned her trip to nationals with a close fifth place finish in the 400-meters. Fox ran solid, leading the entire race until the last 30-meters and a photo finish. Her time of52.67 was only five tenths of a second from the first place finisher.

Senior Tanice Barnett had a strong finish in the 1500-meters to end up in fifth with a personal best time of 4:24.43. Barnett was in seventh heading into the final 100-meters, but pushed herself to the limit to cross the line in fifth. This finish places her second all-time in school history and gives the senior her first ever trip to nationals.

"Tanice ran great," said Yentes. "We knew she would have to finish in the top-five to qualify and she did that."

The Cowgirl 4x400-meter relay team ran in a very exciting race when they finished fifth with a new school record of 3:31.50. The team, consisting of Smith, Fox, sophomore Amanda Hopper, and freshman Sharon Larrier, needed to finish in the top-three to guarantee them a spot atnationals. However, their fast time on Saturday should assure them anat-large bid to the national meet. They will not know for sure until Tuesday morning when the field is posted.

"The 4x400 team ran great to break a new school record, but I still think there are some areas where we can get better and shave off some time, and that is reassuring."

For the Cowboys, senior All-Americans Kyle Herl and Zack Schaefer competed in the hammer throw. Schaefer did not waste any time securing his spot at nationals when he finished fifth with his first throw of 204' 7". Herl trailed Schaefer in sixth with a throw of 201' 6", but a lot like the Cowgirl 4x400-meter relay team, he should get an at-large bid with his throw of 219' 10", which during the season was top-five in the nation.

"Overall things went exactly the way we hoped for," said Yentes."I strongly believe we will be taking seven quality kids that have a chance to do something at nationals."

The 2005 NCAA Outdoor National Meet will be held in Sacramento, Calif., on the campus of Sacramento State, on June 8-11.