Tiger great Walter Davis qualifies for 6th World Championship Team
EUGENE, Oregon — For the sixth time in his illustrious career as one of the world’s leading triple jumpers, LSU great Walter Davis earned the right to represent the United States at the IAAF World Championships after taking third place in Thursday’s action at the 2011 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Davis established a new 2011 seasonal best on his very first jump of the competition as he jumped a wind legal 55 feet, 10 ¼ inches to eclipse the “B” qualifying standard of 55-3 ½ needed to qualify for the IAAF World Championships in Athletics to be held later this summer in Daegu, South Korea.
Since only two Americans have eclipsed the “A” qualifying standard of 56-5 ¼ this season, Davis earns a spot on Team USA on the strength of his third-place finish in Thursday’s competition.
The two Americans having already met the “A” qualifying standard for this year’s World Championships are Florida juniors Christian Taylor and Will Claye, who will join Davis on Team USA after finishing the competition in first place and second place, respectively. Taylor jumped a wind-aided 57-4 ¾ to defeat his teammate’s wind-aided effort of 56-1 as each passed their final three jumps during the final rounds.
A former World triple jump champion in his own right, Davis continues a prolific career as one of the all-time greats to compete in the event for the United States as he will represent his country for the sixth time at the World Outdoor Championships as he has appeared in each meet since 2001.
Davis was crowned World Champion in the event when he struck gold in Helsinki, Finland, in 2005 as he posted a winning mark 57-7 ¾. He followed by winning a bronze medal in 2007 in Osaka, Japan.
The Baton Rouge native is one of the most prolific track and field athletes to wear the purple and gold. He captured six NCAA titles, seven SEC titles and nine All-American honors in just two seasons wearing the purple and gold in 2001 and 2002. Perhaps the highlight of his collegiate career came in 2002 when Davis swept NCAA Outdoor titles in both the long jump and triple jump in leading the Tigers to a national team championship in the season finale held at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium in Baton Rouge.
Davis was not the only LSU triple jumper to shine during Thursday’s action as senior All-America Zedric Thomas earned a fifth-place finish with perhaps the best performance of his collegiate career.
After being added to the triple jump field late Wednesday, Thomas showed just why he deserved a spot in the competition after jumping a wind-aided 55-2 ¾ (+2.3) on his second attempt to catapult himself all the way to fifth place, where he would remain through the final four rounds.
Thomas actually wrapped up the competition with a new wind-legal personal record on his sixth and final attempt of the evening as he jumped 54-5 ½ (+1.5), shattering his previous wind-legal PR of 53-3 ¾ set at the SEC Championships back on May 15. With his wind-legal jump of 54-5 ½, Thomas moves up into the No. 5 position on LSU’s all-time outdoor performance list in the triple jump.
Thursday was also an important day of qualifying on the track for a handful of current and former stars as former LSU standouts Richard Jones and LaTavia Thomas each advanced to the semifinals of the 800 meters and senior All-American Kenyanna Wilson earned a place in the semifinals of the 100-meter dash.
Jones ran an impressive 1 minute, 47.14 seconds for the third-fastest time in the qualifying round with the men’s 800 meters, while Thomas advanced to the women’s semifinal with the 2:04.90 that ranked 12th for the opening round. Wilson was the 15th-fastest qualifier to the semifinal of the women’s 100 meters as she ran a wind-legal 11.29 seconds to finish in fifth place in the third preliminary heat.
One former Tiger All-American also competed in the 400-meter dash for the first time at the USA meet as Armanti Hayes ran 46.95 to finish in fifth place in his heat and 23rd place overall.
Members of the LSU track and field program are also competing in Eugene this weekend during the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships being held at Hayward Field as future Lady Tiger star Alex Gochenour of Missouri Valley, Iowa, opened defense of her U.S. Junior title in the girl’s heptathlon.
With four events being contested in Thursday’s opener, Gochenour wrapped up the day in fourth place for the overall standings with 3,126 points. After opening the competition by scoring 931 points with the time of 14.34 for the 100-meter hurdles, Gochenour scored 736 points with a clearance of 5-3 in the high jump, 570 points with a throw of 34-10 ¼ in the shot put and 889 points with a time of 24.98 in the 200 meters.
With 3,126 points to her credit, Gochenour has put herself in position to defend her U.S. Junior crown for the event as she only trails Day 1 leader Allison Reaser (3,174) of San Diego State by 48 points.
While she might be 102 points off last year’s pace when she scored 3,228 points for a third-place finish in Day 1 at the 2010 USA Junior Championships, Gochenour is actually 22 points closer to first place in this year’s race for the championship after trailing last year’s leader by 70 points after the first day. She scored a personal best of 5,300 points to win the U.S. Junior heptathlon title during the 2010 season.
Gochenour will continue her gold medal defense on Friday morning as she steps onto the runway with the start of the heptathlon long jump at 11:40 a.m. CDT. The competition will also feature the javelin and 800 meters before this year’s champion is crowned on Friday afternoon.