Entering the final day of the 2011 Conference USA Championships, the UCF indoor track & field team sat ninth in the standings with 13 points. Like last spring’s outdoor championships that saw the Knights come from behind to earn the program’s first-ever C-USA outdoor title, the team jumped the rest of the competition Saturday to earn its first indoor title.
Scoring 110.5 points on the final day of competition at Houston’s Yeoman Fieldhouse, UCF finished the weekend with a program-record 123.5 points to claim the championship. That final-day point total came in large part due to several individual championships and all-conference performances. The Knights’ previous best finish at the meet was third in 2009.
“I am very proud of the entire team,” 2011 Conference USA Coach of the Year Caryl Smith Gilbert said. “We won with a total-team effort and as a coach that is all you can ask for. Everyone understood what they needed to do individually so that we could achieve our collective goal, which was winning this championship.”
Freshman Aurieyall Scott electrified the 60 meters as she won the conference title in 7.24. That time tied for a freshman and school record and was an NCAA automatic qualifying time for Nationals in two weeks. It also ties her for the fourth-fastest time in the country this year.
“To have all the personal awards accompany the team achievement makes the day very special. To have Aurieyall win and pick up that honor is great, but having it come alongside the championship makes it that much more special,” Smith Gilbert added.
Junior Jackie Coward claimed her second-straight C-USA title in the 60-meter hurdles with an 8.16 in Saturday’s final one day after setting a new meet record of 8.15 in the preliminaries. UCF earned 29 points alone in the event as it claimed the top four spots with Karessa Farley (8.32), Mica Wimberly (8.43) and Ashley Bolling (8.62) following Coward across the line. Farley and Wimberly’s times in the finals were NCAA provisional qualifiers.
Freshman Dominique Booker, whose record in the 60 meters Scott tied, won the 200 meter final by the slimmest of margins. Booker’s 23.395 just edged out Houston’s Christie Jones by three-thousands of a second for the league title and the 10 points. Scott earned third-team All-C-USA honors with her third-place finish of 23.43. Senior Sheila Paul finished fourth in a personal-best time of 23.55 to earn five points.
The 4×400-meter relay team, which has dominated all season, continued the trend on Saturday afternoon. The Knights finished ahead of second-place ECU by more than a second and a half with a time of 3:40.39. Coward, senior Champelle Brown and freshmen Afia Charles and Sandy Jean made up the championship quartet running in the event for the Black and Gold.
Scott’s first-place finish in the 60 meters earned 10 points for UCF, but three other members of the team also picked up points in the finals. Senior Lynne Layne earned third-team all-conference honors with a 7.39 finish, earning six points. Paul (7.40) earned five points in fourth place, while Booker’s fifth-place finish (7.41) gave the Knights four of the top five spots and four more points.
Setting the bar high with a first-place finish in the preliminaries of the 400 meters on Friday was Champelle Brown. She did not disappoint on Saturday, setting a school record in the finals and earning eight points in the process. Brown finished second overall in 54.26, eclipsing her own program record of 54.31 set two weeks ago at Arkansas’ Tyson Invitational. Charles also ran well, crossing seventh in 56.18.
Senior Carley Dart carried her strong showing from Friday night in the 800 preliminaries over to Saturday’s final. Dart broke her personal-best time set the night before with a 2:12.56 finish to claim third place and six points.
UCF’s final point total benefitted from eight and a half points from two pole vaulters. Erica Weiss’ fourth-place mark of 11-5.75/3.50m earned five points. Freshman London Enos tied for seventh and picked up three and a half points with a personal-best vault of 10-11.75/3.35m.
Tomika Story picked up three points with a sixth-place showing in the triple jump. Story jumped 39-8.75/12.11m to earn the three points towards the Knights’ total.
The UCF throwers also made their debut in the league championship meet Saturday afternoon. Freshmen Destinee Romain and Satrina Oliveira both competed in the shot put. Romain finished 11th with a throw of 42-2.0/12.85m, while Oliveira’s personal-best throw of 40-7.75/12.39m was good for 14th place.
“We really had contributions from everyone this weekend. Scoring points in the pole vault from London and Erica and to see Carley PR and score for us in the 800 really shows what this team is all about,” Smith Gilbert said of her team’s strong showings. “Champelle, Jackie, Karessa and so many others today stepped up and solidified this team effort that ultimately led to winning the title.”
The complete women’s team standings with point totals are as follows: UCF (123.5), Tulsa (76), UTEP (72), SMU (69), East Carolina (65), Southern Miss (57), Houston (51), Rice (33), Memphis (31), Tulane (31), UAB (28) and Marshall (26.5).
The Knights will now look ahead to the Last Chance Meet next Saturday at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. UCF will then send several members of the team to Nationals in two weeks hosted by Texas A&M.