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SOU's Cushman places sixth at NAIA Nationals

GULF SHORES, Ala. — Connor Cushman put Southern Oregon University on the board and the Raider 4x100-meter relay teams positioned themselves to do the same Thursday on Day 1 of the NAIA Outdoor Championships at Blackwell Stadium.

Cushman, a senior, became SOU's first All-American of the meet by completing 10,000 meters in 31 minutes, 37.51 seconds for sixth place in an eight-man field. Cushman, who also put on an All-America display at the NAIA Cross Country Championships in the fall, cleared the seventh finisher by 28 seconds and is now SOU's top placer in the history of the race. Running at the national outdoor meet for the first time, he'll be in the 5K, too, starting with the trials at 5 p.m. Pacific Time today.

The Raider men's 4x100 team of Dwight Shaw, Matt East, Jeremiah Emershy and Cameron Bremner won its trial heat and had the third-fastest overall qualifying time of 41.10 seconds in a 28-team field. They came into the meet as the No. 5 seed after placing fourth last year — fifth until the fourth-place team was disqualified for post-race antics — for SOU's best-ever finish in a men's outdoor relay. The top two seeds, however, will not be present in Saturday's 12:50 p.m. final: Wayland Baptist (Texas) did not finish and Wiley (Texas) had a dropped handoff in their trials.

The Raider women were the No. 8 seed but clocked the fifth-fastest qualifying time with a school-record run of 47.06 seconds, clipping the record they set at the Cascade Conference Championships by one-hundredth of a second. That means Rakayla Tyler, Arianna Daniel, Margot Hamman and Savannah Greenwade will be among the final eight teams in Saturday's 12:40 p.m. final, clinching All-America status in the relay for the second time in school history and first time since 2002.

SOU's non-qualifying run was also a success. Daniel, running as the No. 28 seed of 29 entries in the 200-meter trials, finished 13th in 24.83 seconds — topping her old PR of 25.00 and claiming the No. 3 spot on the all-time Raider list. The freshman's finish was the best for a Cascade Conference runner in the women's event since 2012.

At the halfway point of the decathlon, sophomore Joseph Dotson is in ninth place of 16 with 3,295 points, slightly ahead of his first-day pace when he set a PR of 6,695 points at the CCC Multi-Event Championships a month ago. Typically stronger on the second day, Dotson had 3,218 points at the turn of the event at last year's NAIA Championships when he went from 10th place to fifth on the final day. On Thursday, he matched his PR in the long jump (20 feet 10 inches) and set a new one in the 400 meters (50.95). The other first-day disciplines were the 100 (11.53), shot put (37-10) and high jump (5-6 ½). Friday's disciplines, starting at 8 a.m., include the 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500.

Two prelims originally scheduled for Thursday were scrapped and changed to finals-only due to the size of the fields: the women's 1,500 meters, which features All-American Jessa Perkinson, and the men's 3K steeplechase, which features All-American Kevin Poteracke. Both finals will take place Saturday.