Clayton State athletes hope for shot at nationals

From staff reports

Clayton College & State University freshman Eric Simmons and the Laker relay teams bettered their chances to make the NCAA National Track & Field Championships later this month with school record-setting performances at the Georgia Tech Invitational Saturday at George C. Griffin Stadium in Atlanta, GA.

Simmons won his heat in the 400-meter race, placing 21st among some stiff competition in the event. He broke his own school record with a time of 47.47 seconds, more than two-tenths of a second faster than his best time earlier this year at the Georgia Invitational.

The 4x400m relay team of senior Rother Heard, freshman Brian Etelman, junior Carlos Guyton and Simmons lowered its NCAA provisional time in the 4x400, placing fifth with a time of 3:11.29, more than a second faster than the team's school record time of 3:12.92 set at Georgia.

There was some confusion immediately after the race, as initially the Laker team was disqualified for a lane violation, but meet officials later overturned the ruling.

The 4x100m relay team of Heard, Etelman, Simmons and Guyton also broke the school record with a time of 41.12, seven-hundredths of a second faster than the school best set earlier this season at the Georgia Invitational. Clayton State placed 16th in the race.

Simmons in the 400, both the 4x100m and 4x400 relay teams and senior Tony Juarez in the 1500, now must wait to see if their provisional qualifying times will be enough to get them into the NCAA Division II national meet May 26-29 in Walnut, Calf.

Final declarations for nationals will be announced next week. Juarez had an "off-day" Friday at the Georgia Tech meet, placing 54th in the 1500m race with a time of 4:09.26. His best NCAA provisional time was earlier this season at the Butler Twilight when he ran a school record time of 3:50.91.

Also on Saturday, senior Stephen Hughes ran a personal best in the 800m with a time of 1:54.06, almost two seconds faster than his previous best and only five-tenths of a second from Juarez's school mark in the 800m. The performance was the second-fastest 800m in Clayton State history.

On the women's side, senior Penny Tinker finished 45th in the 1500m on Friday with a time of 4:51.89, while sophomore Melissa Shaw