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(Lafayette, La.) The Lady Bleu Devils traveled to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to participate in the 2016 Louisiana Classic. The women's 4x400 meter relay team qualified for NAIA nationals with a time of 3:54.76 and finished in third place behind NCAA opponents Grambling State University and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
"It was an awesome performance to say the least," said Dillard head coach Bobby Williams. "It's still early in the season, but this season is unique being that we have seven ladies who can jump in and be a part of the 4x4 team at any moment."
Last year's 4x4 team made history by making it to the NAIA championships for the first time under Coach Williams and finished 19th overall, posting a time of 3:55.22. Coach Williams has faith that this year's relay team can obtain NAIA All-American status, which can be achieved with at least a top eight finish in the women's 4x400 meter relay final at nationals.
"I believe this year's 4x4 team will have a great chance to finish in the top five in the NAIA," said Coach Williams, who also serves as pastor at Next Level Church in New Orleans.
The four ladies who qualified were Kaitlyn Fortuna (JR/New Orleans, La.), Dominique Hardin (SR/Apple Valley, Calif.), Tajdreana Hurst (FR/Katy, Texas ) and Kahlia Columbus (FR/Houston, Texas). Fortuna also qualified for nationals in the 200 meter dash as she finished 11th out of 42 runners, posting a time of 25:00 flat. Teammate Sasha Newman (SO/Antioch, Calif.) qualified for nationals in both the 100 and 400 meter hurdles in a previous meet (Tulane Invitational), but still performed her best in this meet as she finished third out of 22 participants in the women's 400m hurdles with a time of 1:03.26 (PR) and also picked up a ninth place finish (out of 27) in the 100m hurdles, posting a time of 14.60 (PR), both personal records. The California native battled through a neck injury during the latter portion of her freshman season but has bounced back in tremendous fashion, all while keeping up a near-perfect cumulative GPA. Newman also volunteers her time at the same church that her coach leads and is not ashamed to speak about her faith.
"It's not me, it's all God," Newman said humbly.
On Friday, April 1, the Lady Bleu Devils travel to Clinton, Mississippi, to participate in the Mississippi College Twilight Invitational.
*Photos provided by Y. Tsega