Four go for glory

Four USF athletes will compete today in the culmination of the 2003 collegiate track and field season, the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, California.

Dayana Octavien, Jimmy Baxter, Alexis McGaffagan and Chandra Brewer made the trip across the nation after earning automatic bids May 30-31 at the NCAA East Regional competition in Fairfax, Va., and will compete through Saturday to be recognized as the nation’s best athlete in their event.

All four athletes are set to compete today in qualifying rounds, although junior Dayana Octavien got an early start on her teammates in yesterday’s discus preliminary competition.

Octavien, Conference USA’s Female Athlete of the Year and the only USF athlete competing in more than one event, didn’t have the best start on her first day. She committed a foul in all three of her attempts in the discus, failing to advance to Friday’s final. However, Octavien gets a shot at redemption today in the hammer throw qualifying round, in which she earned an at-large bid, set for 5 p.m. PST start.

Octavien’s 60.98 meter throw ranks 11th among the 28 athletes in the event. Candice Scott of the University of Florida holds the top mark at 68.23 meters, nearly 7.50 meters better than Octavien.

The USF athlete considered to have the best shot at bringing home a gold medal is junior Jimmy Baxter, who will compete for the third consecutive year at nationals in the high jump in the qualifying round at 1:30 p.m. PST.

After a disappointing 13th place finish last year, Baxter enters this year’s competition with the third best collegiate jump in the nation. His mark of 2.26 meters (7 feet, 5 inches) is behind only Texas Southern’s Kingsley Idemudia (2.28 meters) and Southern Mississippi’s Cedric Norman (2.27 meters). Norman ended Baxter’s chance at earning a third consecutive C-USA title a month ago in Charlotte, N.C.

Junior Alexis McGaffagan will compete in the women’s high jump. McGaffagan’s 1.76 meter jump ranks 25th out of 28 athletes in the event. Chaunte Howard of Georgia Tech holds the top collegiate jump entering the qualifying round at 1.89 meters. The competition begins at 4 p.m. PDT.

Junior Chandra Brewer will be the final Bull to compete today in the shot put qualifying round. Brewer, the C-USA shot put champion, ranks 12th among the 27-person field with a top throw of 16.38 meters. North Carolina’s Laura Gerraughty holds the nation’s top mark at 18.82 meters.

Usually, the top nine to 12 athletes advance to the final round of competition. All finals for events USF athletes are competing in will be held on Saturday.