Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shericka Ward & Jeff Demps Sprint to NCAA Indoor Nationals

Ward, Demps Punch Tickets for NCAA Indoor Finals

Wednesday, March 07, 2012
FRANK JOLLEY Staff Writer, The Daily Commercial

Shericka Ward has competed in relative obscurity throughout her college track-and-field career, while Jeff Demps has run on a much more visible stage.

That may be about to change for Ward as she joins Demps this weekend at college track's biggest indoor event.

Ward, a former Leesburg High School standout, and Demps, a former state champion from South Lake, will be running at the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships in Nampa, Idaho.

The two-meet begins Friday and is being hosted by Boise State University.

A senior sprinter at Villanova University in Philadelphia, Ward will compete in the women's 60-meter hurdles, while Demps will represent the University of Florida in defense of the men's 60-meter dash title he won last year in College Station, Texas.

Following a breakout effort at the Big East Championships in February, Ward used the momentum from that meet to set a record at the ECAC Championship in Boston. On the quick surface at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, Ward blistered the field in a preliminary heat, stopping the clock in 8.23 seconds.

She posted an 8.28 time in the semifinals, before unleashing a record-setting performance on the field in the finals. Ward broke the meet record with an 8.18 in the title race. She obliterated the field, outracing her nearest competitor by nearly 2/10ths of a second.

Ward's winning time surpassed the former meet record of 8.19 set in 2000 by former Villanova runner Charmaine Walker.

Based on her performance at the ECAC meet and her body of work as a senior, the NCAA announced late Monday that Ward had been accepted to run for the first time, as an individual in the NCAA title meet.

At the Big East Championships, Ward was the runner-up in the 60 hurdles and earned All Big East honors for the third consecutive year. She also came in third in the semifinals at the Penn State National in January, where her time of 8.25 was a personal best up until this past weekend.

Ward also scored a win at the NYC Gotham Cup during the regular season.

Demps, who was also a running back for the University of Florida football team and a member of the school's 2008 national championship team, recently announced he would focus on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials instead of the upcoming NFL Draft and pursue a career in track.

The UF senior was one of 20 Gators to qualify for the indoor championships. He is the defending 60-meter champion, running a 6.53 in 2011.

Demps will enter Friday's championships with the fastest qualifying time in the country. He qualified with a 6.54, one-tenth second ahead of Auburn's Harry Adams.

The entire list of 20 qualifiers in the event are separated by .13 seconds.

Demps has earned four track and field national championships during his career at Florida -- 60-meter titles in 2010 and 2011, a 4x100 title in the 2010 outdoor championships, and 2010 100 meter title.

In addition to earning All-State honors in football during his junior and senior seasons at South Lake, Demps won the 100-meter state title as a senior in 2008 and clocked a 10.25 at the AAU Junior Olympics.

During the 2008 Olympic Trials, Demps set a national high school record with a 10.01 time in the 100. In addition, Demps also posted a personal-best time of 21.04 in the 200 meters during a meet in Knoxville, Tenn.

At Leesburg, Ward was the Class 3A state champion in 2008 in the 200 meter with a time of 25.24, and in the 100 hurdles, stopping the clock in 14.82.

She also competed in the state meet as a junior and a sophomore.

The indoor championships will be streamed live on ESPN3 from 7:30 to 11:45 p.m. on Friday and from 8 until 11:15 p.m. on Saturday. Cable channel ESPNU will air the championship on tape delay beginning at 7:30 p.m. March 18. and will air what ESPN3 does not, beginning at noon on Friday and 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

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