Coward Becomes Third Knight Headed to NCAA Nationals

May 29, 2010

GREENSBORO, N.C. (UCFAthletics.com) - Sophomore Jackie Coward (Knoxville, Tenn.) became the third UCF athlete to earn a spot at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, notching a spot with a third place finish in her 100-meter hurdles heat Saturday at the NCAA East Championships in Greensboro, N.C.

Coward will join fellow sophomore Sheila Paul (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.) and freshman Sonnisha Williams (Jacksonville, Fla.) at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., from June 9-13. Paul will compete in the 100-meter dash while Williams will be in the field in the long jump. All three Knights will be competing at the outdoor nationals for the first time.

Needing to finish in the top three of her heat Saturday to ensure her spot in Eugene, Coward edged Villanova's Shericka Ward by one-hundredth of a second at the finish line for third place. The sophomore's time of 13.11 ranked ninth among the 24 finalists.

Senior Tiki James (Miami, Fla.) was in the third heat in the same event and just missed a second-straight trip to nationals. James finished fifth in her heat and was just two-hundredths of a second from earning a spot as an at-large qualifier. Her time of 13.22 ranked 15th in the competitive East field. In the west region, a time of 13.39 would have earned James a spot in nationals.

"Jackie Coward had a strong performance as she competed up to her ability," said head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert. "After a tough day yesterday, she pulled through today with a much better effort. We will get ready for nationals with Sonnisha, Sheila and Jackie.

Senior LaKendra Thames (Winter Garden, Fla.) missed on her opportunity to return to nationals in the discus. With the top 16 earning three more throws in the finals Saturday, Thames ranked 17th with a top effort of 157-3/47.93m.

"It was a bittersweet day overall," Smith Gilbert added. "LaKendra twister her knee in the discus and had trouble after that. For Tiki, she has had three of four efforts under 13.30 this season despite missing 11 weeks due to injury. She was able to qualify for USA Championships this summer so it will be exciting for her to get more races under her belt and prepare for that."

In her first trip to the NCAA East Championships, junior Tomika Story (Tallahassee, Fla.) finished 29th out of 48 competitors in the triple jump with a top jump of 40-6.75/12.36m.

UCF had a school-record 11 student-athletes compete in the NCAA East Championships after winning the 2010 Conference USA Outdoor Track & Field Championship on May 16.

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2010 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field East Championships
Greensboro, N.C. - Irwin Belk Track

Day Three - May 29, 1010
9. Jackie Coward, 13.11 (+1.3) - N
15. Tiki James, 13.22 (+2.4)

Triple Jump
29. Tomika Story, 40-6.75/12.36m (+2.2)

17. LaKendra Thames, 157-3/47.93m

N - Qualified for nationals