UCF Track & Field Opens Action at NCAA East Regionals

May 29, 2009

GREENSBORO, N.C. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Juniors Tiki James (Miami, Fla.), LaKendra Thames (Winter Garden, Fla.) and Kelsey Poljansek (Milton, Kan.) highlighted the initial action for the UCF track and field program Friday on day one of the NCAA East Regionals. UCF sent a school-record nine athletes to the NCAA East Regionals, which is being hosted by North Carolina A&T at Irwin Belk Track.

"It was a day of highs and lows for our team," said head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert. "We were on an emotional roller coaster. Everyone is a little tired and a little banged up, but overall we came out of today healthy and we will be ready for a big day tomorrow."

Thames qualified for the NCAA Championships by finishing in the top five in the discus with a personal-best mark of 162-9/49.60m to finish fourth. Poljansek finished sixth in the discus with a top mark of 160-0/48.78m to just miss automatically qualifying for nationals but putting herself in solid position to qualify based on the national descending order list.

"The discus throwers were impressive today with LaKendra Thames earning a spot to nationals with a fourth place finish," said Smith Gilbert. "Kelsey is in good standing on the national descending order list after a sixth-place finish and a good day."

James was solid in her performance in heat three of the 100-meter hurdles, winning the heat and earning an automatic spot in Saturday's final with a time of 13.39. Her fellow hurdlers - Jackie Coward (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Micaela Wimberly (Miami, Fla.) did not fare as well as neither advanced to the finals. Coward ends the season as the freshman school record holder in both the 100- and 400-meter hurdles.

"Tiki James looked great in the hurdles," said Smith Gilbert. "She has an easy heat in winning and making the final. It was disappointing that Jackie and Mica did not make it into the final or into the top-12."

In the first event of the day, senior Dione Thomas (Jacksonville, Fla.) was in action in the long jump. With a top mark of 19-9/6.02m, Thomas finished second in her flight but just missed advancing to the finals. Overall, the senior claimed tenth place in the event.

"Dione should do well tomorrow in the triple jump," said Smith Gilbert. "She just needs to trust in her approach mark and finish up her jump by running through the board."

Making her first appearance in regionals, freshman Sheila Paul (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.) competed in both the 100- and 200-meter dash. The freshman finished 21st in the prelims of the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.86. In the 200, Paul crossed the line in 24.17 and finished 17th. She finishes her first collegiate season as the freshman and school record holder in both events.

"Freshman year is the most challenging year for an athlete, and Sheila has had a long, challenging freshman year," said Smith Gilbert. "I am proud of her for the season that she has been able to have."

Sophomore Lizzie Harris (Miami, Fla.) finished second in her heat in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 59.56. Harris just missed qualifying for the finals, however, as the sophomore finished 11th in the eight-heat field. Freshman Aisha-Maree Frazier (Marietta, Ga.) also was in the field, and she finished in 35th with a time of 1:03.24.

Along with James in the 100-meter hurdles finals, UCF will have four athletes in field events on Saturday. Harris is one of the Knights in action on day two for UCF as the sophomore will look to advance to the national championships in the high jump. Thomas, an NCAA Indoor All-American, will compete in the triple jump while Thames and Poljansek look to advance in the shot put.

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to www.UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit www.UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.

NCAA East Regionals - Day 1
Greensboro, N.C. - Irwin Belk Stadium

May 16, 2009
Long Jump
10. Dione Thomas, 19.9/6.02m

4. LaKendra Thames, 162-9/49.60m - N
6. Kelsey Poljansek, 160-0/48.78m

4x100m prelims
16. UCF (James, Wimberly, Coward, Paul), 45.91

100m prelims
21. Sheila Paul, 11.86 (-0.9)

100mH prelims
5. Tiki James, 13.39 (-1.9) - Q
17. Jackie Coward, 13.84 (-0.7)
30. Micaela Wimberly, 14.36 (-0.7)

200m prelims
17. Sheila Paul, 24.17 (+2.2)

400mH prelims
11. Lizzie Harris, 59.56
35. Aisha-Maree Frazier, 1:03.24

N - automatic qualifier for nationals
Q - qualified for finals with heat win