Four Wildcats Advance to Saturday Finals During First Day on NCAA Indoor Championships

MGN Online

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Dezerea Bryant became the first woman in Kentucky track and field history to win the NCAA 200-Meter Dash Championship on Saturday inside the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Friday nights race was billed as a showdown between the fastest two women not just in the collegiate ranks, but in the world this year at 200 meters, Bryant and Texas A&M’s Kamaria Brown.

The two were matched in adjascent lanes in the final with Bryant starting from lane five and Brown slightly ahead on the outside in six.

“I think the first sprinter NCAA Champion in school-history says it all,” head coach Edrick Floréal said. “Anytime you can we can do something that’s never done before that’s a huge step in the right direction. The competiton was pretty tough too. She had to really had to make Kamaria Brown uncomfortable. That was the plan, to get out and make her feel uncomfortable. She did that, she executed the plan in order to win.”

Bryant got the better start and never looked back, clocking a school-record lowering personal best time of 22.69. The runner-up, Florida’s Kyra Jefferson, was a full .1 seconds behind.

“I executed well, I just felt really focused on winning,” Bryant said. “It’s very exciting. I’m a little smaller than my competitors, but I see some advantage in that I have to focus more on executing in order to win.”

Bryant is also the first Wildcat to win a NCAA Championship at any sprint distance in school history. She is just the fouth Wildcat ever to win a women’s individual NCAA Title, all the previous winners (Lisa Breiding, Valarie McGovern and Bernadette Madigan) were distance runners.

Kentucky had entries in five events on Friday and a Wildcat advanced to NCAA Finals in all five of those events.

Bryant doubled up on Friday as the 200m final was her third race of the night. She qualified in the 200m moments after posting the fastest 60m dash qualifying time, 7.17, which was just .01 seconds of her collegiate-leading personal best. The dash final will be Saturday at 9:10 p.m. ET.

Matt Hillenbrand stayed ahead of traffic for much of the race, but had to fight late as he finished fifth in the initial mile semifinal heat with a time of 4:04.67. Only the top-four in each of the two mile prelims advanced automatically, so Hillenbrand was made to wait to be confirmed as a NCAA finalist.

His time held up as the fifth fasterst qualifier overall. The men’s mile final will be Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.

Allison Peare was next up on the track and she also advanced, automatically, to the NCAA women’s mile final. Peare stayed in the middle of the pack for much of her race, but fell behind at the bell. She was in sixth position as she came to the home turn, but apparently in control the whole time as she kicked nicely to place third in her heat with a time of 4:42.40.

Kendra Harrison, the SEC 60m hurdles Champion and top-seed entering the Championships, won her prelim heat with a time of 8.03 and advanced the NCAA 60H Championship, which will go off at 9:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Kayla Parker did not make the hurdles final coming up two spots short, with a qualifying time of 8.19 for 10th place. Leah Nugent ran 8.34 for 15th place. Both Parker and Nugent were each competeing in their first NCAA Indoor Championships.

The Saturday events will begin at 5:30 p.m. ET with Bradley Szypka in the shot put. In addition to the events Wildcats qualified for on Friday, UK also has an entry in the women’s 4x400m relay.

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