COLUMBIA - Amberly Nesbitt crossed the finish line Saturday, glanced at the scoreboard and saw her name on top. Still, it took the South Carolina sophomore several more moments to realize she was indeed the NCAA's "fastest woman."
"I just did not know what was going on," said Nesbitt, who won the NCAA 100-meter championship during the weekend. "When my name stayed up there, I thought, 'Amberly, you won, you really won.' Then, of course, all the cameras came over and I knew."
Nesbitt finished in 11.34 seconds to edge out two favorites, Auburn's Kerron Stewart and Southern California's Carol Rodriguez.
Later in the meet, Nesbitt's teammate and fellow sophomore, Shalonda Solomon, ran to victory in the 200 meters.
It's the second time in the past four NCAA outdoor meets that South Carolina runners have taken the two sprint titles. The Gamecocks' Aleen Bailey won both events in 2003.
Solomon had been South Carolina's sprint star much of the outdoor season, partly because Nesbitt was bothered by a hamstring injury.
Nesbitt says she felt her form pick up during the NCAA regional meet and, even though was seeded 11th in the national field, felt she could run with the favorites.
Nesbitt broke out front and stayed there throughout the race. "I thought, 'Oh, my God, Amberly, you did it,'" said Solomon, who finished fifth in the 100 meters. "That just gave me more incentive to win the 200."
Solomon was already the Southeastern Conference's outdoor champion in the 200.
But the publicity she gained the past few weeks from her outstanding performances plus a return to her home state of California - Solomon is from Inglewood - knocked the runner off stride in preparations, South Carolina track and field coach Curtis Frye said.
"A little of that was getting to her," he said. "She changed a lot of things in her running mechanics."
Solomon said her legs were spent with about 20 meters remaining and held on to take the race in 22.62, ticks ahead of Auburn's Stewart. Frye said Solomon had been running away from the competition all season long, but this time, "she willed herself to victory. It was great to see her heart."
Both sophomores hope to improve South Carolina's third-place finish at the outdoor meet. Frye, though, says both will have big decisions ahead about leaving school if they continue to improve.
Frye is no stranger to star runners leaving South Carolina early.
Olympic hurdler Terrence Trammell did so in 2000 and, more recently, hurdler Tiffany Ross-Williams left after the 2004 season with a year of eligibility remaining.
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