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Beltz, Dotson steal top finishes

GULF SHORES, Alabama — Southern Oregon sophomores Zach Beltz and Joseph Dotson saved their best for last while turning in All-America efforts Friday at the midway point of the NAIA Outdoor Championships at Blackwell Stadium.

Competing in SOU's only finals of Day 2, Beltz etched a school record in the long jump of 24 feet 10 inches — a personal best by, incredibly, 7 inches — to steal fourth place as the No. 7 seed, and Dotson jumped three spots in the final decathlon discipline for runner-up honors with 6,732 points.

Two more school records fell at trials in which SOU just missed qualifying. Aspen Abbott took down her own 800-meter mark, finishing in 2 minutes, 13.73 seconds to beat her old best of 2:15.01 and place ninth as the No. 22 seed — missing out on the final by a quarter of a second. Abbott was later joined by Arianna Daniel, Savannah Greenwade and Rakayla Tyler in the 4x400 trials as the Raiders clocked in at 3:51.15, an SOU record by over three seconds, but they were also the first team left out in ninth place.

SOU will be represented in seven finals today — four men's and three women's — and Jessica Perkinson will be in two of them. As the top seed Friday night, she eased to a win in her 5,000-meter heat in 18:31.51, the eighth-fastest overall time among 16 qualifiers for the final. She'll also be in the 1,500, the trials for which were scrapped, as the No. 5 seed.

Matt East qualified for the 100-meter final by winning his heat in 10.49 seconds, the ninth-fastest qualifying time in a field of 41. He'll also race with SOU's 4x100 team, which qualified along with the women's squad on Thursday.

In other trial runs, Connor Cushman — who became an All-American in the 10K with a sixth-place finish Thursday night — was 17th in the men's 5K at 15:34.07, and Kayle Blackmorewas 17th in the women's 5K at 18:56.32. Tyler was 14th in the women's 100 (12.01), though she'll be in the 4x100 final, and the men's 4x400 team of East, Gary Fanelli, Cameron Bremner and Cedric Quartey took ninth in 3:14.70, the third-fastest time in school history.

Beltz, who will compete in today's triple jump, actually matched the third-place finisher's top mark in the long jump. The tiebreaker, however, went to their second-best jumps; Beltz's was 24-2 , which was a PR at the time he logged it. After placing 22nd last season with a mark of 22-1 , he's the first male in Raider history to attain All-America status in the event. He crushed the old school record of 24-4 , which was established by Alphonso Harris in 1993.

Dotson, who last year placed fifth in the decathlon, started the day in ninth place. On the comeback trail he established new personal bests in the 110-meter hurdles (16.20) and the javelin throw (162-0), and posted sufficient marks in the discus (128-8 ) and pole vault (14-1 ). The clincher, however, was the 1,500 finale. In fifth place and 122 points back of second, he made up 125 points with a time of 4:22.18, a PR by over five seconds. Third-place Winston Lawson of Vanguard finished three points behind Dotson and came in 19 seconds behind him in the 1,500. The other two individuals Dotson passed were 16-plus seconds back.

Dotson beat out Cascade Conference champion Seth Gretz of Oregon Tech, who took fifth, for the first time in four head-to-head battles. He is SOU's first second-place finisher in the decathlon since Ross Kennedy in 1996 and '97.