By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The USF track and field team's 2012 season was superb and there's much more to come from the Bulls this summer.
Seniors David Aristil (400m hurdles) and Jared Thomas (discus) both finished fifth in the nation at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championship last week while junior long jumper Neamen Wise made his first trip to Des Moines Iowa for the event. All-three set school records in their respective events during the 2012 campaign.
"What a great weekend for Jared and David to end their careers like that from a USF standpoint," head coach Warren Bye said.
Aristil's personal best time of 49.54 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles set the USF record and helped him become an All-American for the third time. Aristil, a dual citizen, ranks as Haiti's top 400-meter hurdler for the upcoming Olympic Games and there is a strong chance that he'll compete for the country after preparing for the event with a couple of tune-up meets in the next two weeks.
Aristil would become USF's fifth student-athlete to compete in the Olympics. Kemel Thompson, now the director of the Bulls Varsity Club, took part in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games for the Jamaican National Team and finished ninth in the 400-meters during his second trip. Llewelyn Bredwood made the Olympics in 2000 and was part of Jamaica's 4x100 relay team that finished fourth. Damu Cherry competed in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and finished fourth in 100-meter hurdles for the United States. Sasha Springer-Jones also took part in the 2008 Beijing Games for Trinidad and Tobago.
"What a great opportunity for a kid like that who has come in here and worked very hard to get where he's at today," said Bye of Aristil. "It would be such an amazing experience for him to compete in the Olympics and he has definitely earned it."
Thomas earned first-team All-American status last week with his fifth place finish at NCAA Outdoors which was seven places ahead of what he accomplished in 2011. The Pensacola native's throw of 194-5 (59.25m) was his second best of the season only behind his school-record toss of 201-0 (61.26m) and it was 17 feet more than his top discus mark at NCAA Outdoors last season.
"It was a huge improvement, much more like Jared. He finished on a strong note. This is a pretty solid mark," throws coach Toby Colyer said.
Next on Thomas' task list is the U.S. Olympic Trials Monday, June 25 in Eugene, Ore. The top 12 to make it out of the first round of trials will throw again on June 28 and the top three move on to the Olympics.
"They've earned their degrees and now they kind of get to reap a little bit of the reward from what they've done here," said Bye of his senior duo.
Wise won't be competing for an Olympic spot, but he's certainly going to be a seasoned veteran heading into next season. The former USA Junior champion made it to his first-ever NCAA Outdoor event and his mark of 23-9.5 (7.25m) placed him 19th in the long jump.
"It was great experience for him. He came in having a great opportunity to score, but it just didn't happen that day," Bye said. "He's got next year to finish out on and we're glad for the way he competed."
Overall the Bulls finished 33rd overall, their best effort since 2001, to cap off a successful 2012 season that also saw them finish second at the Big East Outdoor Championships. The women placed third at the league outdoor meet, both were program bests.