Gar-Field High graduate and UCLA senior Sheena Johnson's final NCAA championships got off to a strong start when she won her heat of the women's 100-meter hurdles to automatically advance to Friday's finals at the University of Texas's Mike Myers Stadium.
Johnson's time of 12.85 seconds tied for the second-fastest mark of her career, although the wind of 2.2 meters per second was over the limit allowed for record-keeping purposes.
"I felt pretty good. It was real hot out there but overall it was a pretty good race for me," said Johnson, who finished eighth in the 100-meter hurdles at last year's NCAAs in 13.09 seconds. "I just wanted to run clean and make it to finals and it was pretty clean race for me."
Friday's 100-meter hurdles final is set for 9:10 p.m.; Johnson will have to come back and run the 400-meter hurdle trials just 20 minutes later. She is the defending NCAA champion in that event.
After Wednesday's action was all but washed out by torrential rains, skies on Thursday were sunny. But the competition came with some controversy.
UCLA's women's team-title chances were bolstered early when Texas's 4x100-meter relay team, which had run the second-fastest qualifying time on Wednesday, was disqualified from the final after a coach's protest that the Longhorns had used tennis balls instead of tape to mark their handoff zones. With Texas's disqualification, UCLA, which had run the next-fastest time, made the final.
Among local athletes, Georgetown senior Jesse O'Connell won his 800-meter heat in a personal best of 1 minute 46.78 seconds and advanced to Saturday's final.
In the women's 1,500 meters, Georgetown senior Trenier Clement automatically advanced to Saturday's final by finishing second in her heat with a time of 4:15.87. In the men's 1,500 meters, Georgetown sophomore Chris Lukezic and American junior Sean Duffy both failed to advance to the finals. Lukezic finished eighth in his heat in 3:47.91 while Duffy was twelfth in the same heat in 3:49.54.
George Mason junior Richard Phillips won his heat of the men's 110-meter hurdles to advance to the finals in 13.51 seconds. Phillips's teammate, Ricardo Melbourne, failed to advance with his 13.86 showing.