Nelvis advances to 100m hurdles final, Pienaar 9th in long jump

EUGENE, Ore. ( – The second day of the 2014 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships turned out to a be a successful one for two Arkansas State University athletes this Thursday (June 12) despite wet and windy weather conditions in Eugene, Ore.

Freshman Roelf Pienaar claimed All-America Second-Team honors in the long jump by finishing in ninth place and senior Sharika Nelvis advanced to the 100-meter hurdles finals to earn All-America First-Team plaudits.

Pienaar, who was one of three Red Wolves participating in this Thursday's events, would capture ninth place overall in the men's long jump with a distance of 24-03.73 (7.41m) in his second attempt.  Pienaar had to jump into a head wind throughout his competition which no doubt hindered his distance.  Pienaar, the Sun Belt Conference (SBC) Men's Outstanding Outdoor Field Performer and an All-SBC First-Team selection this 2014 season, made his first outdoor national meet debut a notable one by advancing to the finals as his ninth-place performance proved deserving of U.S. Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-America Second-Team recognition.  A native of Potchesfstroom, South Africa, Pienaar was the SBC Outdoor Champion in both the long jump and triple jump events at this spring's conference meet.  Earlier this year, Pienaar earned USTFCCCA Indoor All-America First-Team laurels following his third-place 25-07.09 (7.80m) performance in the long jump.

Nelvis, who becomes a three-time (2012-14) USTFCCCA All-America performer, advanced to the finals in the 100-meter hurdles for the second consecutive year by compiling the event's fastest semifinal overall time of 12.76.  The 2014 USTFCCCA South Central Region Women's Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year and 2014 SBC Female Athlete of the Year Award winner, Nelvis managed a quick start out of the blocks in the opening heat en route to not only winning her heat, but also boasting the fastest time in the 24-participant field as the top two finishers in each heat plus the next two fastest times are final's qualifiers.  Finishing right behind Nelvis were Florida's Bridgette Owens (12.97 time) and Florida State's Anne Zagre (12.97) , who placed second and third, respectively.  Nelvis, a three-time (2012-14) SBC Women's Most Outstanding Outdoor Track Performer honoree, achieved All-America First Team by placing among the top eight hurdlers to qualify for Saturday's (June 14) finals which get underway at 5:19 p.m. (CT).  The three-time (2012-14) All-SBC First-Team member was recognized as a second-team All-American in the 100-meter dash by her 13th-place overall showing in Wednesday's (June 11) semifinals.

Last season at Eugene, Nelvis turned in a 2013 NCAA Championship semifinal second-heat best 12.84 time to qualify for the finals.  She would go on to attain USTFCCCA First-Team All-America recognition by finishing sixth place in the 100-meter hurdles finals with a time of 12.92.  At the 2012 national meet, Nelvis placed 16th overall in the 100-meter hurdles as the Memphis, Tenn., native ran a 13.23 time to capture sixth place in the event's third heat and subsequently earn second-team All-America status.

The results weren't as favorable for A-State's third national meet participant.  Senior Chris Nicasio was forced to contend with less than ideal elements in the men's hammer throw.  Nicasio, who hails from San Antonio, Texas, would finish in 20th place overall by recording a 198-11.79 (60.65m) distance in his first and only toss as the 2014 All-SBC Second-Team performer faulted on his last two attempts due to wet hands and a slippery throwing area brought upon by a rain shower.  Nicasio, who was making his nationals' debut and was one of 12 competitors in the first of the event's two flights, wrapped up a productive Red Wolves' career by adding honorable mention All-America honors to his lengthy list of achievements.

"I thought we had a strong day," said A-State head coach Jim Patchell.  "The weather was certainly a factor and I was pleased with our effort.  Chris (Nicasio) got caught in a slick and had the hammer slip out of his hands twice.  Roelf (Pienaar) had to contend with a swirling wind in all of his jumps and still managed to be in eighth place going into the final jump.  Sharika (Nelvis) had to run in a head wind and was able to record the fastest time in her event."

Per the current USTFCCCA guidelines, any athlete qualifying for an NCAA Championship event is eligible for All-America recognition. The top-eight place finishers and those scoring points at the NCAA Championship meets will earn All-America First-Team honors while those finishing in places nine through 16 receive All-America Second-Team laurels.  The athletes who participate in the NCAA Championships but don't place among the national meet's final top 16 finishers achieve honorable mention All-America recognition.

Sharika Nelvis will be competing for the final time as an A-State athlete this Saturday (June 14) evening.

"I think Sharika will be ready (for Saturday's final)," said Patchell.  "It's all about competing and if Sharika does what she's capable of then she will do really well."