WMU Claims MAC Titles in 4x400 and 400m Dash; Ayiana Gaines Dominates
Provided by WMU
TOLEDO, Ohio -- Sophomore Ayiana Gaines claimed her fourth career 400-meter dash title and helped the 4x400-meter relay team also earn a title as the Western Michigan Track & Field team wrapped up the 2016 Outdoor Mid-American Conference Championships at the University of Toledo on Saturday.
Gaines, who has yet to lose in the 400 at an indoor or outdoor MAC Championships, crushed the competition with a time of 53.02 seconds. Samantha Cuneo came the closest, finishing in second place with a time of 54.29. The South Bend, Ind., native nearly won the 200-meter dash but was edged out by .01 seconds by Northern Illinois' Kedisha Dallas, who ran a time of 23.98 seconds.
Unfortunately Gaines tweaked her hamstring in the 200 and was questionable for the 4x400-meter relay, as was indoor 200-meter dash champion Sarita Dotson. Dotson had missed most of the outdoor sason due to hamstring issues but both toughed it out for a magical 4x400 race.
"The 4x400 was amazing," said head coach Kelly Lycan. "Sarita barely competed during the outdoor season and we decided to put her on the third leg."
Senior Diajah Ruffin, who took eighth earlier in the 400 to score one point, ran the lead off leg and kept the squad in the middle of the pack. Naoimi Dulaney then took the baton and was able to keep pace before handing it off to Dotson. Dotson fought through her injury and was able to hand the baton to Gaines with the team in fifth place at the exchange. Gaines, as she does, took over the race and passed four teams to take the title with a combined time of 3:42.09.
"We have won a lot of 4x400 MAC Titles in my time here but it took a lot of guts for them to do what they did today," added Lycan. "It was really special."
"Ayiana just came and took care of business," Lycan said about his star sprinter. "She crushed everyone. She did a great job winning the 400 and finishing runner up in the 200. To run that 4x400 when she was hurting showed some maturity and that's what champions do, they play when they're hurt."
Gaines, along with Dulaney, Artia Gunn and Jade McKnight also combined to score in the 4x100-meter relay. The squad broke 46 seconds for the first time this season, running 45.99 and taking fourth place.
McKnight also earned two points by taking seventh in the triple jump after reaching a distance of 11.89m (38' 8.25").
Gun also scored in an individual event for the first time in her career after taking eighth in the 100-meter hurdles.
Eastern Michigan claimed the overall MAC Championship after scoring 152 points, followed by Akron (130), Northern Illinois (110.5), Kent State (104.5) and Central Michigan (67) to round out the top five. The Broncos ended the weekend with 38 points to finish in ninth.
"I've never experienced a year like this," concluded Lycan. "We have 7-to-8 NCAA caliber athletes and only one of them really competed today. We've been ravaged by injuries this season but I was really proud of the way we competed today. The point total may not show it but they definitely competed like champions."
Gaines' season will continue on as she will qualify for the NCAA East Preliminary Championships in the 400 on May 26-28 in Jacksonville, Fla.