DES MOINES, Iowa — Sophomore Keyunta Hayes broke UTSA's 14-year-old program record in the 400-meter hurdles on Wednesday night and he advanced to Friday's national final to highlight the Roadrunners' opening day of action at the NCAA Championships.
The two-time Southland Conference Champion circled the Drake Stadium oval in 49.95, which broke Jok Tan Byerly's previous school standard of 50.19 established at the 1998 Southland Championships. It also stands as the fourth-fastest time in conference history (the best clocking in 21 years) and now ranks 15th on USA Track & Field's 2012 performance list.
The Tyler native, who posted the sixth-best mark in the 24-man field, automatically qualified for the final by virtue of his second-place finish in the third semifinal heat of the night. His previous career best of 50.37 came in his gold-medal performance at last month's league meet and he matched that mark two weeks ago at the NCAA Championships Preliminary Rounds in Austin. He has finished no worse than second in nine of his last 10 races, including six victories, and 11 of his last 14 overall dating back to last season.
"Technique-wise, it was my worst race of the year, but staying determined and hungry throughout resulted in me finishing strong and setting a new PR," Hayes said. "I had doubts coming in, but knowing that I can compete with the nation's best should erase those feelings on Friday night. If I can get past that and just run the race I'm capable of, good things will happen. It really hasn't hit me yet that I'm going to compete for a national title in a couple days."
Hayes will look to win UTSA's first-ever national championship at 5:35 p.m. on Friday. He is assured of becoming the ninth All-American in program annals and eighth under 10th-year head coach Aaron Fox. Three-time All-American Leonard Byrd, who placed third in the 400m at the 1996 NCAA Championships, owns the best finish by a Roadrunner at the national meet.
Meanwhile, junior Tyler Williamson's season came to an end after he fouled on all three of his attempts in the long jump.
The four-day meet continues on Thursday, but UTSA will not be back in action until Hayes runs on Friday evening. Junior All-American Richard Garrett Jr. is the squad's other competitor, but he is not scheduled to compete until 10 a.m. on Saturday in the shot put.