George Mason freshman sprinter John Parker qualified yesterday for the upcoming NCAA track championships in the 200-meter dash, and then ran as a substitute on the Patriots' championship mile relay team in an effort that barely missed the qualifying mark.
Clocking a personal best time of 20.51 seconds, the high school all-America from Prince Frederick, Md., beat the 20.90 NCAA qualifying time by nearly a half second.
"It feels great, it really does," said Parker. "I've been working really hard for it all week. And Coach (Ralph) White told me today I'm in good shape and he has a lot of confidence in me."
In a dual meet between host George Mason and Penn State won by the visitors, 96-67, both teams were hoping to qualify their star athletes for postseason competition in the IC4A Eastern Championships on May 22-23 in Philadelphia, and later the June NCAA meet in Austin, Tex.
Parker was substituting in the mile for star leadoff runner Tom Lovelace, who has been out with a pulled hamstring for the past month. Running in the third position of the four-man event, Parker was able to fend off Paul McLaughlin of Penn State for most of his turn, and anchor runner Reggie Henderson quickly regained the lead to win the event. But the quartet's time of 3:10.7 missed the NCAA qualifying mark by about three seconds.
Parker's qualifying run followed an earlier performance by Mason's Skeeter Jackson in the long jump, a 25-feet-10 1/2 feat that beat the NCAA qualifying mark by 1 1/2 inches.
Although no Penn State runner qualified yesterday for the finals, former T.C. Williams standout Rickey Garcia won the grueling 3,000-meter steeplechase with an IC4A qualifying time of 8:51.1, finishing nearly 30 seconds ahead of fellow Nittany Lion Paul MacKley. Garcia had already qualified for the NCAA last week with a time of 8:40, nearly seven seconds under the required mark.