COLUMBIA - Anna Cockrell grabbed the U.S. no. 1 time in the 400-meter hurdles Saturday evening, at the same time breaking the record for the event at the Taco Bell Classic.
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Cockrell, a student at Providence Day in North Carolina, ran the 400 hurdles in 57.78, topping the previous Taco Bell record of 58.96 set eight years ago. Brandee Johnson of Nansemond River, Va., and the previous U.S. no. 1 holder, placed second.
Three of the U.S. top five hurdlers competed in the finals, including Cockrell, Johnson and Imagine Patterson of Summerville, the U.S. no. 5 in the 400 hurdles and the current state Class AAAA champion.
Cockrell said she got off to a good start in the 400, clearing the first two hurdles in good shape.
"I could kind of see Brandee out of the corner of my eye, but really focusing on staying relaxed and pacing myself," Cockrell said.
She started to pick up her pace heading into the final 200 and at the 150-meter mark she "went for it."
"I knew Brandee was incredibly strong, so I just went for broke."
The win in the 400 capped off a sweep for Cockrell. Earlier in the day, she took first in the 100-meter hurdles, finishing her preliminary heat with a time of 13.44, just shy of the Taco Bell record of 13.26. She won the final in 13.61.
In a late-morning field event, Carson Dingler set a new meet record in the pole vault and just missed setting a new U.S. no. 1.
Dingler cleared the bar at 13 feet, 8 ¼ inches, easily beating the old Taco Bell record of 12 feet, 7 inches.
Dingler, a student at First Presbyterian Academy in Macon, Ga., set the new standard on her first attempt. She then moved the bar up to 13 feet, 10 ¼ inches, just grazing the bar on her way down. The bar stayed up briefly before falling to the mat.
Dingler said she felt "anxious" coming into the event after arriving in Columbia late Friday night and getting up at 4 a.m. Saturday morning.
"I really didn't have any good warm-ups, but I worked through it," she said.
The new U.S. no. 2 girls pole vaulter said the wind, which at times gusted to more than 20 m.p.h. through Harry Parone Stadium, caused problems for her, as well as the other competitors, especially early in the competition.
"At the beginning, it was a headwind and I had trouble getting off the ground," she said. Later in the event, the wind shifted and Dingler was able to change to a bigger pole.
"In the beginning it was pretty shaky," she said, "but I was able to work through it."
In a boys' 110-meter hurdles preliminaries, Marcus Krah of Hillside, N.C., set a new meet record with a time of 13.85. The performance also moved Krah up to U.S. no. 2 in the event.
The old Taco Bell record was 13.90 in the boys' 110-meter hurdles.
In the boys' 100-meter final, West Ashley senior Daryl Singleton placed first with a personal best and U.S. no. 2 of 10.48.
Singleton said the wind worked to his advantage in Saturday afternoon's race.
"Being from West Ashley, I'm used to running in the wind. I wanted to run under 10.5 and I did."
This year's meet attracted 2,500 athletes from 237 schools across the Southeast.
John Jones, meet director and longtime coach at Spring Valley High, said plans are underway for next year's 25th anniversary meet at the school. It will include former Taco Bell competitors who have gone on to professional careers in the NFL and other sports, he said.