With her seventh place at the NCAA championships in Sacramento, Calif., junior Chandra Brewer became the first USF thrower, male or female, to be recognized as an All-American.
Brewer, who made the cross-country trip with three of her USF track and field teammates, was one of only two Bulls to advance to the final round in their event. She secured a spot in Saturday’s finale by finishing ninth in the qualifying round Thursday with a throw of 52 feet, 7 ½ inches on her second of three attempts. The top 12 advanced to the finals. In the finals, she threw 53 feet, 11 ¼ inches on her first of six attempts finishing seventh out of the final 12 competitors.
“It’s great,” USF coach Greg Thiel said. “(Her throw) was also a personal best and a school record, and it was pretty exciting to do that at this meet.”
Brewer also managed to get the Bulls on the team-scoring list by finishing in the top eight. Her two points put USF’s female team in a tie for 62nd place with Wyoming and Santa Barbara. Nebraska’s Becky Breisch won the event with a throw of 58 feet, 3 1/4 inches.
Louisiana State University won the women’s title, followed by Texas and South Carolina. The University of Florida finished fourth.
“We didn’t get shutout,” Thiel said. “Pretty much, every year we’ve gone, we’ve had an All-American score. Out of 325 schools that compete to get here, to do that is pretty good.”
Junior high jumper Jimmy Baxter was the other Bull to advance to the finals round at nationals, ending the qualifying round tied for first place. He needed only one attempt to clear the first three heights, but needed three attempts to clear 7 feet, 1 ¾ inches to earn a spot in the finals.
“He looked great, and he really jumped well,” Thiel said.
In Saturday’s final, Baxter needed two attempts to clear each of the first two heights, but failed to clear 7 feet, 3 ¼ inches in three attempts, thus ending his shot at a title.
“He was over it, but he’d just hit (the bar) with his heels,” Thiel said. “It was a real fast surface, and we were changing his approach. He just got too much horizontal speed, and when that happens you just end up hitting the bar before you can clear it.”
Southern California’s David Jaworski won the event by clearing 7 feet, 5 ¾ inches. Southern Mississippi’s Cedric Norman, who ended Baxter’s chance at a third consecutive Conference USA high jump title, finished third. Baxter finished in 11th place with his best jump at 7 feet 1 ¼ inches, two spots better than his 13th-place finish last year.
Although he didn’t get a national title, Baxter was once again named an All-American, giving USF two All-Americans out of four individuals competing.
When asked if he expected half of his athletes to come home with the prestigious honor of being among the nation’s best, Thiel didn’t take long to provide an answer.
“Gosh no,” he said. “We brought three people that had never been here before. They’re all young, so it’s pretty exciting, and they’ll be back. “We’re thrilled to death to come home with two out of four, and we look forward to next year. I think next year we’ll bring even more.”
Junior Dayana Octavien, C-USA’s Female Athlete of the Year and the only Bull to qualify in more than one event, never seemed to find the form that got her to the nationals. After fouling on all three attempts in Wednesday’s discus qualifying round, Octavien fouled in two of three attempts in Thursday’s hammer throw qualifier. Her lone legal throw of 177 feet, 4 inches placed her last in the 28-person field.
“It was just too much for her for the first time,” Thiel said. “Just too much pressure.”
Thiel said even after Octavien fouled on all three attempts Wednesday in the discus, that she had maintained her morale going into Thursday’s hammer throw.
“She wasn’t down at all. She was just bummed out that she let herself get that nervous,” Thiel said. “When you foul on your first (attempt), your nerves just take over sometimes.”
Junior high-jumper Alexis McGaffagan also didn’t make it past the qualifying round. After clearing the opening height of 5 feet, 7 ¼ inches, she failed in three attempts at 5 feet, 8 ¾ inches to finish in a tie for 22nd-place.