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Air Force's Zach Perkins finishes close second in 1,500 meters in NCAA D1 track

News services -News services - Published: June 8, 2013 0

EUGENE, Ore. - With a strong surge down the final straightaway, Air Force sophomore Zach Perkins claimed a runner-up finish in the 1,500-meter run at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

A tactical race from the start, with a 67-second opening pace, Perkins stayed within the front half of the field. He fell back to seventh when the tightly packed group of 12 started to pick up the pace just prior to the bell and got to the outside with 300 meters left. Running fifth at the final turn, Perkins moved up into third at the start of the final straightaway. With one final kick in the final 50 meters, the sophomore crossed the finish line in a time of 3 minutes, 50.39 seconds . just 0.14 seconds behind the meet winner.

"It's good. You come to NCAAs to win it though, so hopefully next year, I'll get the win," Perkins said through Air Force sports information. "I mean, yeah, sure, to everyone else, a kid coming to the NCAAs with a 3:44 PR must have been a surprise, but I beat some good guys at regionals. ... We had faith; a lot of people around me, that I train with, had faith. At the end of the day, it's a confidence race."

"It's a lot of hard work. I'm lucky to have a coach (Juli Benson), who I think is one of the best in the nation. It can be hard to train at the academy . you don't always get a lot of sleep . but what the academy can do is teach you hard work. If you work really hard, you can probably outwork a lot of guys in the field. I think, at the end of the day, all Division I runners have the tools to be successful; it's just how hard they work.

Oregon's Mac Fleet held off Perkins' late surge to win the title (3:50.25) on his home track at historic Hayward Field. Oklahoma's Patrick Casey finished third in 3:50.60, while Wisconsin's Austin Mudd (3:50.84) and Notre Dame's Jeremy Rae (3:51.07) rounded out the top five.

Perkins, the academy's first All-American in the 1,500, tied with Nick Frawley (pole vault, 2008) for the men's best finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since 1964.

"At the beginning of the season, me and my coach sat down and said, 'you should be going to nationals this year,'" Perkins said. "We both had faith; can't really care what everybody else thinks. I knew I was in shape, I knew I had the fitness and everything. You just gotta run."

Fleet surged the final 300 meters and pointed to cheering fans as he crossed the finish. Even Bruce Hornsby, who sang the national anthem, stood to applaud for the junior Duck. Hampered by injuries for the past two seasons, Fleet glanced up at the video scoreboard to see how he was doing on the final stretch.

"I knew that there was daylight there," between him and the rest of the field, he said.

Colorado senior Emma Coburn won the 3,000 steeplechase title in 9:35.38.

A dropped baton cost the Texas A&M men an outright NCAA outdoor track and field team title.

The Aggies' finished last in the 1,600 relay after mishandling the baton before the first exchange, propelling event winner Florida into a tie for the title.

Each team finished with 53 points for the first co-champions since 1978. It was the second consecutive team title for the Gators after a string of three straight for the Aggies.

Florida won the relay in 3 minutes, 1.34 seconds.

"I just told the guys let's go win the relay," coach Mike Holloway said. "We don't see it as Texas A&M dropping the baton, we see it as we didn't drop it."

On the women's side, top-ranked Kansas wrapped up its first women's team title earlier in the day and finished with 60 points, thwarting Oregon's "triple crown" attempt to sweep team titles this year in the sport's three NCAA championships. The Ducks wound up third behind Texas A&M.

"We came in as a team today," Jayhawks coach Stanley Redwine said. "We didn't have a concern of needing one person to do well. It's all about teamwork."

Clemson junior Brianna Rollins broke her own collegiate record in the 100 hurdles, finishing in 12:39 to top her mark of 12.47 set in the semifinals Thursday. That time bested the previous record of 12.48 set by Southern California's Ginnie Powell at the 2006 NCAA outdoor championships in Sacramento, Calif.

It was the best overall time in the world this season and the fastest ever in the event at Hayward Field. Earlier this year, the 21-year old set a championship meet mark in the 60 hurdles with a 7.79 for the NCAA indoor title.

LSU senior Kimberlyn Duncan won the women's 200 in a wind-aided 22.04 tying her for the fastest collegiate 200 in any conditions. Last year's Bowerman Award winner is the first woman to win the event in three consecutive years.

"I'm very satisfied," she said about the final race of her college career. "I'm trying to hold back tears right now."

Texas A&M senior Ameer Webb won the men's 200 in a wind-aided 20.10. He was runner-up in the event last year and won it at this year's indoor championships, but wasn't considered the favorite for the final.

Oklahoma State's Natalja Piliusina won the women's 1,500 in 4:13.25. The junior from Lithuania had twice been a runner-up in the 800.

With 100 to go, Piliusina said she figured she's was probably going to finish fifth or sixth, but then something changed in her. "I thought, 'Not this time,'" she said.

Texas A&M junior Wayne Davis II won the 110 hurdle title in a wind-aided 13:14.

In the men's 5,000, Arizona junior Lawi Lalang won in 13:35.19 for his seventh overall NCAA title. Lalang also won the 10,000 on Thursday and became the 12th man to win double championships in those events.

In the field events, Oklahoma senior Tia Brooks won the shot put with a throw of 62 feet, + inch, Arizona senior Brigetta Barrett won the high jump with a leap of 6-4?, Texas A&M senior Sam Humphries won the javelin at 255-9, and Florida senior Omar Craddock took the triple jump title in 55-6?.

Arkansas won the women's 1,600 relay in 3:27.09.

The women's 400 relay was won by Texas A&M in 42.88, while Florida won on the men's side in 38.53.

English Gardner, who defended her title in the 100 on Friday and was part of the Ducks' relay team, announced afterward that she will skip her senior year to go pro.

Gardner was the only collegiate runner to make the finals in the 100 at last year's Olympic track trials.

EUGENE, Ore. - With a strong surge down the final straightaway, Air Force sophomore Zach Perkins claimed a runner-up finish in the 1,500-meter run at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

A tactical race from the start, with a 67-second opening pace, Perkins stayed within the front half of the field. He fell back to seventh when the tightly packed group of 12 started to pick up the pace just prior to the bell and got to the outside with 300 meters left. Running fifth at the final turn, Perkins moved up into third at the start of the final straightaway. With one final kick in the final 50 meters, the sophomore crossed the finish line in a time of 3 minutes, 50.39 seconds . 0.14 seconds behind the winner.

"It's good. You come to NCAAs to win it though, so hopefully next year, I'll get the win," Perkins said through Air Force sports information. "We had faith; a lot of people around me, that I train with, had faith. At the end of the day, it's a confidence race.

"It's a lot of hard work. I'm lucky to have a coach (Juli Benson), who I think is one of the best in the nation. It can be hard to train at the academy . you don't always get a lot of sleep . but what the academy can do is teach you hard work. If you work really hard, you can probably outwork a lot of guys in the field. I think, at the end of the day, all Division I runners have the tools to be successful; it's just how hard they work.

Oregon's Mac Fleet held off Perkins' late surge to win the title (3:50.25) on his home track at historic Hayward Field. Oklahoma's Patrick Casey finished third in 3:50.60. Wisconsin's Austin Mudd (3:50.84) and Notre Dame's Jeremy Rae (3:51.07) rounded out the top five.

Perkins, the academy's first All-American in the 1,500, tied with Nick Frawley (pole vault, 2008) for the men's best finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since 1964.

"At the beginning of the season, me and my coach sat down and said, 'you should be going to nationals this year,'" Perkins said. "We both had faith; can't really care what everybody else thinks. I knew I was in shape, I knew I had the fitness and everything. You just gotta run."

Fleet surged the final 300 meters and pointed to cheering fans as he crossed the finish. Even Bruce Hornsby, who sang the national anthem, stood to applaud for the junior Duck.

Colorado senior Emma Coburn won the 3,000 steeplechase title in 9:35.38.

A dropped baton cost the Texas A&M men an outright NCAA outdoor track and field team title. The Aggies' finished last in the 1,600 relay after mishandling the baton before the first exchange, propelling event winner Florida into a tie for the title.

On the women's side, top-ranked Kansas wrapped up its first women's team title earlier in the day and finished with 60 points, thwarting Oregon's "triple crown" attempt to sweep team titles in the sport's three NCAA events.

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