USC Track and Field: Nellum And Others Advance To NCAA Championships


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

11 Trojans and two relay teams will advance to the NCAA Championships after competing in the NCAA West Region Championships held at the University of Texas this weekend.

The field–which began with 96 athletes per event across both the West and East regions–has been whittled down to 24 per event. For USC, five men will compete across seven events, six women in eight events and both the women’s 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay teams will race for a title in Eugene, Oregon in June.

The track portion of the NCAA West Region Championship began after being delayed an hour due to thunderstorms, but that did not impede USC’s sprinters from showing up and showing out. The women’s 4x100m team–featuring junior Loudia Laarman, Melia Cox, junior Jenna Puterbaugh and sophomore Vanessa Jones–started off USC’s qualifying action, finishing with a Top 3 time of 44.38 in their heat. Puterbaugh ran an incredible third leg to get USC in striking distance and Jones finished strong as the anchor, closing the gap on the winning Oregon team, which clocked at 44.31. USC’s time was the fifth-fastest of the qualifiers.

Blackburn followed that up with a top performance in the 100m high hurdles, and will represent USC in both of these events in two weeks. Cox also competed in the 100m HH, and though she finished fifth in her heat, it was not enough to move on to the Finals.

In the women’s 200m, sophomore Akawkaw Ndipagbor just barely qualified for the finals with a time of 23.52. She edged out Texas’ Courtney Okolo for the final spot, who finished with a time of 23.69.

For the men, Bryshon Nellum and Aaron Brown left no doubt that they would represent the cardinal and gold clan in Oregon: Brown torched the other runners in his heat with a season-best tying time of 20.47, and Nellum taking second in his heat with a time of 20.58. Brown will also compete in the 100m in the NCAA finals, while Nellum will be one of the headliners in the 400m title race as well.

And finally in the women’s 4×400 relay, Puterbaugh, Ndipagbor, Jones and Ashley Liverpool combined for a third-place finish in their heat with a time of 3:32.31, also a season-best for this team.

The NCAA Track and Field Championships will be held at the University of Oregon, June 5-8. For a complete look at all of the Trojans that will compete, as well as their events, click here.