VMI Alum Donnie Cowart Leads Big South at USA Nationals

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The Big South Conference was well-represented at the 2011 USA Track & Field Championships and Junior Championships this past weekend in Eugene, Ore.  Below is a recap from both events.

VMI alumnus Donnie Cowart finished sixth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the USATF Senior Championships, contested Saturday in Eugene, Ore.  Cowart's time of 8:39.13 in his second race in three days continued a gradual improvement up the USATF charts, as after failing to make the finals in 2009, he finished ninth last year before his sixth-place result this year.

Liberty assistant coach Derek Scott came in ninth in the men's steeplechase.  Scott was very aggressive in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase final.  He led for most of the first half of the race, in an effort to qualify for the IAAF World Championships.  However, he slipped back to ninth place during the closing stages, finishing in 8:45.41. 

Billy Nelson, the current top-ranked American, won the race with a time of 8:28:46.  Nelson remains the only American to achieve the Olympic "A" standard this season. 
 
Charleston Southern's Javon Young's junior season came to a close with a 26th-place finish in the 100m dash at the USA Track and Field National Championships.  Young did not get out of the blocks well, but recovered to run a time of 10.41, finishing fifth in his heat, just behind Justin Murdock of Clemson and Rubin Williams of the Heritage Track Club.  Rakieem Salaam, who was running unattached won heat three, edging out former Florida State and current Nike star Walter Dix.

Gardner-Webb Assistant Track & Field Coach Andy Fryman picked up an eighth-place finish in the hammer throw event with a mark of 70.90 meters.

USA JUNIOR NATIONALS

Charleston Southern - Three more Buccaneers took to the track to compete against the best in the nation, this time taking part in the USA Track and Field Junior National Championships, which is for athletes who have not yet turned 20 years old.  Rozzie Johnson ran well in the 100m dash preliminaries, finishing sixth in his heat with a time of 10.61, but was just the fourth collegiate finisher in the event, behind athletes from Auburn, Texas A&M and South Carolina.  With a 13th-place overall finish, Johnson failed to advance to the finals.  Edward Ponton ran 14.58 seconds in the 110m hurdles, finishing fifth in his heat.  The time was 0.4 seconds faster than his previous best, although the event was run on shorter hurdles as part of the junior championships.  Ponton placed 15th overall in the event. 

The third CSU competitor was Richie German, who was part of the hammer throw event.  German hit a mark of 53.64 meters (176-0) on his final throw, which put him 14th overall. After a foul on his first attempt, German had to get a countable mark down.  He did so on throw number two, getting it out 51.15m.  Knowing he had nothing to lose, German gave it one final toss to hit his mark of 53.64m.

Gardner-Webb -  Gardner-Webb rising sophomores Carson Sears and Johnathan Parks each posted strong performances in their respective events at the 2011 USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships.  Sears recorded a fifth-place finish in the hammer throw, turning in a mark of 65.46 meters in the event.  His fifth-place finish is the highest finish by a Gardner-Webb student-athlete at the USA Junior Nationals event and also earned him Junior All-American recognition.   In the first round of the 110-meter hurdles, Parks crossed the finish line in sixth-place in the second heat with a time of 14.86, which was good enough for 19th-place overall.

In the junior nationals hammer throw event, the athletes used an international size weight, which is less than the weight used for intercollegiate athletes, while the height of the hurdles is also lower at the junior championships than at intercollegiate competition.

Liberty - Freshman Josh MacDonald placed fifth in the junior men's steeplechase final.  Running his first race in more than a month and a half, MacDonald started out a bit conservatively in the junior men's 3,000-meter steeplechase final.  However, he was able to move up several spots during the latter half of the race and came in fifth out of 23 entrants with an official time of 9:19.56.

MacDonald's race had a definite IC4A flavor.  Georgetown's Max Darrah (8:59.69) and Princeton signee Eddie Owens (9:04.79) notched the two qualifying spots for the 2011 Pan American Junior Athletics Championships.  Meanwhile, Colin Mearns of Virginia crossed the line third in 9:07.33.

VMI - With a 31st-place finish in the 1,500-meters, Cabell Willis concluded the VMI track and field 2010-11 season.  Willis' time of 4:11.17 failed to qualify for Saturday's final, and was 15th in his heat.  The effort brought to an end his strong freshman season, which included two scoring performances at the Big South Outdoor Championships and two qualifying times for this meet, the USATF Junior National Championships.