The NCAA Championships started yesterday. Here is your short summary of what happened.
LOKEDI UPSETS IN RECORD RUN
The women’s 10,000 went out at an honest pace right from the gun (ESPN announcer Jill Montgomery identified the first few laps as “slow”and then Dwight Stones pointed out it was well ahead of meet record pace). Even so, ten women were still in the lead group at halfway and there were six still there as 8k passed in under 26:00.
Pre-race favorite Karissa Schweizer (Missouri) was the first to make a move, taking the lead and pressing the pace with three laps to go. Only Shannon Lokedi (Kansas) and defending champion Charlotte Taylor (San Francisco) were able to stay with her. Taylor was dropped on the second-to-last-lap. At this point Schweizer looked like she was struggling to maintain form and pace. She had no response when Lokedi took the lead heading into the bell. Louisville’s Dorcas Wasike made a strong rally on the final lap to get second and Schweizer held on to third.
It was Lokedi’s first NCAA win and a long time coming; seven other times she’s finished between third and tenth. And she did it in style by breaking a 30-year-old meet record with 32:09.20. In fact, all of the top six finishers broke the meet record. Lokedi’s time is also a collegiate record of sorts: it’s the fastest collegiate mark ever made at somewhere other than Stanford’s Angell Field.
GRUBER DEFENDS, UPSETS IN POLE VAULT
Kentucky’s Olivia Gruver was not expected to contend for the pole vault title despite being the defending NCAA outdoor champion. That was because she had been injured for most of the outdoor season. She did not vault for nearly two months, and her return to action was unremarkable until the East prelims two weeks ago.
Yesterday’s action fairly quickly trimmed the field to three women, Gruver along with Arkansas’ Lexi (Weeks) Jacobus and Virginia Tech’s Lisa Gunnarsson. Only Gruver and Jacobus cleared 4.45m (14′ 7¼”), and Jacobus had no misses through that height and the next while Gruver had a miss at all heights but one. Then Gruver made her first attempt at 4.55 (14′ 11″), Jacobus missed, and that was that. In true pole vault fashion, Jacobus led the entire way only to get upended on the highest bar.
STEWART DROPS A BOMB
Ole Miss’s Janeah Stewart should be celebrating her hammer throw win to the Gap Band’s “You Dropped a Bomb On Me”. Two weeks ago her PR was a good-but-not-great 67.70 (222′ 1″) and the presence of multiple 74-meter-plus throwers meant no one was paying attention to her. She set a PR at the East prelims two weeks ago, but she still was off the radar.
One of Stewart’s opponents never made it to the NCAA hammer finals. Collegiate record holder Maggie Ewen fouled out of the west prelims and did not advance, but Northern Arizona’s Brooke Andersen did qualify and was the heavy favorite given that she is the #2 hammer thrower in collegiate history.
Stewart set another PR on her first throw yesterday, 68.72 (225′ 5″), but Andersen’s 69.82 put her in the lead after the first round. On her second throw, Stewart dropped her bomb: 72.92 (239′ 3″). It put her #4 on the all-time collegiate list and #10 on the all-time US list – but more importantly, it was a distance that Andersen had topped just once in her entire career. Andersen closed to within 5 cm (2 inches) on her third throw, but could not get any closer. Stewart is an NCAA champion and top ten in the world in just her second year of throwing the hammer.
OTHER FIELD EVENTS HOLD TO FORM
Three other field event finals went mostly as expected. Arizona State’s Maggie Ewen took the shot put lead on her first attempt and won by 19 inches. Her winning distance of 19.17 meters (62′ 10¾”) has only ever been beaten by two other collegians.
Stanford’s Mackenzie Little won the javelin with a PR of 60.36 meters (198′ 0″). Her previous PR was more than four years old, so this is a big breakthrough for the Australian who won the 2013 World Youth Championships gold medal. It puts her at #5 on the all-time collegiate list.
Georgia’s Keturah Orji is close to finishing out her amazing collegiate career. So far she has won six of seven triple jump championships and goes for a seventh on Saturday, but this was her first long jump win in eight tries. Other than a first-round foul, she led the competition after every round.
Clearly, it’s not clear.
Five teams were expected to have a shot at the title: Georgia, Kentucky, Oregon, Stanford, and USC.
Georgia came in 2 points under projection in the long jump.
Kentucky came in 6 points over projection in the pole vault, but lost 2 by not getting an expected 100 meter finalist.
Oregon got an unexpected 100 meter finalist but came in 1 point under projection in the long jump and lost 3 by not getting an expected 200 meter finalist.
Stanford came in 2 points over projection in the shot put and 4 points over in the javelin.
USC scored an unexpected point in the long jump and got more 100 and 200 finalists than expected but got no 100 hurdle finalists and loses an expected 9 points there.
In other words, it’s still a muddle. If any team has a leg up it’s Stanford, but it’s really going to come down to which team has the best day on Saturday.
DUCKWORTH WINS DECATHLON
The lone men’s event contested yesterday was the second day of the decathlon. Kentucky’s Tim Duckworth entered the day in the lead but in a challenging position. He’d picked up a minor injury in Wednesday’s high jump, and Stanford’s Harrison Williams is a good enough second-day competitor that it looked like it would go down to the wire.
But that’s not how it worked out. Duckworth’s injury was less serious than it appeared, for one. The other was that Williams had a disastrous run in Thursday’s first event, the 110 hurdles. He hit the ninth hurdle hard, ran nearly face-first into the tenth, and ended up with a disqualification. That put an end to his championship hopes, and given Duckworth’s prodigious talent he merely had to avoid error to seal the win. He did more than just that, he came away with a PR score of 8336, good for #7 on the all-time collegiate list. Georgia got second and third from Karl Saluri and Johannes Erm, big points that give the Bulldogs a boost in the team competition.