KNOXVILLE, Tenn.Miruna Mataoanu and Aymara Albury became Alabama’s first NCAA Championship qualifiers on Friday at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Knoxville, Tenn. Mataoanu won the high jump, setting a regional record in the process, and Albury finished second in the shot put to give the Tide 18 points on the day and a second place standing after the first day of competition, just one point out of first place.
Mataoanu came into the meet with the top high jump in the region and she backed it up by winning the event. Mataoanu was the only athlete out of 10 to clear at 5’11.25” and did so on her final attempt at the bar. The Romanian then continued as the only athlete left in the competition and broke the Mideast Regional record on her first attempt at 6’0.5”. Mataoanu then tied her personal best and the Alabama record by clearing at 6’1.5” on her first try.
“I’m happy,” Mataoanu said. “I thought that 5’11.25” would be enough to make the NCAA meet. I was kind of surprised that I was the only one left after that height. It was exciting to set a regional record and tie my personal best.”
“For Miruna it was interesting,” Alabama head coach Sandy Fowler said. “To start, I think she was nervous and she missed a couple of low bars but then she found her rhythm. She did great because after she was the only one left, she was able to just compete against the bar. That shows how tough she is.”
Aymara Albury punched her ticket to Sacramento with a second place finish in the shot put, destroying her own school record with a throw of 56’6.5” on her last attempt. The SEC champion’s throw is also a new Bahamian national record.
“I think she learned a lot from the outdoor championships last year and the indoor championships this year,” Fowler said. “She learned not to depend on a far throw on a given attempt. She’s really confident right now. Her confidence has risen to that of a national caliber athlete. I think she really believes in herself. To come back on the sixth throw is hard to do.”
The Tide also had three athletes advance to the finals of their events with their performance in the preliminaries.
Tahesia Harrigan ran 11.15 in the preliminaries of the 100m to easily win her heat. Her time was the second fastest overall in the 100m. Harrigan also had a personal best in the 200m dash and advanced to the final with a time of 23.19, which was the fifth fastest overall in the preliminaries.
In the 100m hurdles, LaTasha Pharr qualified for the finals with a time of 13.32, the eighth fastest time of the preliminaries.
Kou Luogon won her heat of the 400m with a time of 52.89, the third fastest time of the event.
Fowler was happy with her team’s overall performance.
“I am extremely pleased with how the day went,” Fowler said. “When you bring eight athletes and seven of them make the final, you can’t complain. I told the team that I wanted them to think about the things they have overcome and to use that to make them better and tougher.”
Rachel Wilson also competed for Alabama on Friday and clocked a 14.14 in the 100m hurdles.
Albury and Beth Mallory will get the Tide started on Saturday morning with the hammer throw. Mallory will also compete in the discus. In addition to the 100m hurdle finals, Pharr will compete in the triple jump Saturday night and will be joined in the event by Mataoanu. Harrigan and Luogon will look to advance to the NCAA Championships Saturday night in the finals of their events and Megan Carnes will cap the weekend for Alabama by competing in the 3,000m steeplechase.
Fans who can’t travel to Knoxville but want to follow the action can watch live streaming video of the meet at the NCAA Mideast Regional website, http://126.96.36.199/%7Eother/track/06ncaa%2Dmer/.