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    Olympics: Two Former SEC Athletes Strike Gold

    By: Mark Maloney
    SEC Digital Network

    LONDON — Strike up the band, and make it heavy medal.

    Team USA made a run on Olympic medals Wednesday, taking three golds, two silvers and two bronzes in four track and field finals held before 80,000 fans in the Olympic Stadium.

    Southeastern Conference connections accounted for four of the seven American medals.

    There was Aries Merritt (Tennessee 2007) and Jason Richardson (South Carolina 2009) finishing first and second in the men’s 110-meter hurdles.

    Brittney Reese (Ole Miss 2008) struck gold in the women’s long jump.

    Lashinda Demus (South Carolina 2005) netted silver in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.

    Merritt ran a personal-best 12.92 seconds, just a hundredth of a second off the Olympic record and five-hundredths off the world standard.

    "It means everything to me," said Merritt, who won this year’s Indoor World Championships over the 60-meter barriers. "I’ve worked really hard for this moment, and I’m just happy that it’s finally over.

    "To be able to execute on the biggest stage in track and field is nothing short of amazing. I have proven myself finally on the biggest stage of my life, so I can’t be more excited or thrilled."

    Richardson, the world champion, finished in 13.04. He was trailed by Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment in 12.13.

    "I was saving my celebration for the outcome. In my head I was actually debating whether or not I wanted to run and be excited or fall down and cry," said Richardson, who had visions of gold. "I was able to keep my composure. ... Hopefully I’ll improve on it and just keep going."

    Merritt, 27, attributed his success to hard work and a change of technique.

    "I was able to stay healthy," he said. "I was able to stay injury free. And I executed."

    Earlier in the day, Merritt led semifinal qualifiers in 12.94. Richardson also won his heat in 13.13.

    * Reese came into the long jump competition with the season’s best mark (23-5 1/2) and having won the 2009 and 2011 World Championships.

    Four years ago at the Beijing Olympics, though, Reese placed fifth.

    "I told myself I wasn’t ever going to be left off the podium again," she said. "So I trained for the last four years for this, and this is the moment I’ve been waiting for."

    Reese made only two fair attempts on six tries Wednesday. She popped her winner, 23-4 1/2, on her second jump.

    Elena Sokolova of Russia won the silver medal with a personal-best 23-2 1/2, and Team USA’s Janay DeLoach took bronze at 22-7 1/4.

    "The reason why I hit two (legal jumps), when I went to bed last night I told myself I was going to go all out," Reese said. "I didn’t have a set mark. I just wanted to go all out ... On my fifth jump (her only other good try), I wasn’t even ready. I was too busy cheering for Allyson Felix (to victory in the 200), so I messed myself all the way up on that one."

    Reese is the second American woman to win the Olympic long jump, following in the sand marks left by Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s still-standing Games record of 24-3 1/2 set in 1988.

    * Russia’s Natalya Antyukh overtook Demus down the stretch of the 400-meter hurdles.

    Antyukh took gold in a personal-best 52.70. Demus clocked a season-best 52.77, while bronze-medal winner Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic also had a season best, 53.38.

    * Felix (21.88) and Carmelita Jeter gave Team USA a 1-3 finish in the 200 meters, split by Jamica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

    Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell (Arkansas 2004), the two-time defending champion in the event, placed fourth in 22.38.

    Trinidad and Tobago’s Semoy Hackett (LSU 2012) crossed the line eighth in 22.87.

    * Wallace Spearman (Arkansas 2007) was the only American to advance to Thursday’s finals of the men’s 200-meter dash.

    Spearmon ran second in his heat to 100-meter silver-medalist Yohan Blake of Jamaica, 20.01 to 20.02. Those held up for the top two times overall.

    Ole Miss junior Isiah Young was eliminated, eighth in his heat in 20.89.

    * Liberia’s Jangy Addy (Tennessee 2008) is in 20th place after the first five of 10 decathlon events.

    Team USA holds the top two spots with Ashton Eaton at 4,661 points and Trey Hardee at 4,441. Addy has 4,081.

    In order, Addy ran 100 meters in 10.89, long-jumped 22-7 3/4, put the shot 49-1 1./2, cleared 6-4 in the high jump and ran 400 meters in 48.64.

    * Alistair Cragg (Arkansas 2004), competing for Ireland, did not qualify for finals of the men’s 5,000-meter run. He wound up 31st in 13:47.01.

    * A pair of former Georgia standouts were eliminated in women’s hammer throw trials.

    Canada’s Sultana Frizell (2006) placed 26th with a throw of 221-3 1/2.

    Argentina’s Jenny Dahlgren (2007) fouled on all three of her attempts.