The two big headlines out of the first day of the NCAA Championships come from Christian Coleman and Marc Scott.
Coleman, the junior at the University of Tennessee, ran a shocking 9.82 seconds in the first heat of the 100 meter semifinals. It destroyed the collegiate record, is the year’s world leading mark, and makes him #4 in US history.
You may notice that we do not have a photo of this race. Our photographer was elsewhere during this race because WHO IN THE WORLD BREAKS A RECORD IN A SEMIFINAL?
Scott, a senior at Tulsa, ran a blistering penultimate 200 meters to break open and win the 10,000 meters.
It seemed that no one wanted to take charge of the race. The pace rarely dipped under 70 seconds for a lap until the very end, when Butler’s Erik Peterson tried to make a long drive to the finish. It almost worked, but Tulsa’s Marc Scott ran a 59 for the last lap and was well clear of the field with just 200 to go. BYU sophomore Rory Linkletter came blazing up over those last 200 meters and looked like he might have had a chance at Scott, but couldn’t come any closer over the last 50 meters.
This race brought some new teams to the fore. It was the first outdoor championship ever for Tulsa, and Linkletter’s runner-up finish was the best for BYU in the 10k since head coach Ed Eyestone won in 1985. Peterson’s third was the best in any event for Butler since 2009.
“I’ve been working on [my kick] all year, practicing as much as I can,” Scott said. “I knew it would come down to the last lap and that is what I’ve been working on for a long time. I worked really, really hard to develop the final lap.”
“I thought some guys might separate earlier, but the slow race is what I’ve done all year. Sit and sit for as long as I can and then really go after it for the last 400-600m. It was spot on for me.”
The team championship is going to come down to Texas A&M and Florida. The Aggies have 21.5 points on the board to Florida’s 18 and both qualified many athletes to Friday’s finals. I’d go with Florida if I had to say who had the upper hand at the moment, but it could easily go either way.
Sprint semis: The 100 semis were just insane. As mentioned above, Coleman ran 9.82, but the rest would have been remarkable under any other circumstances.
Men’s 100 meter semis summary:
Cameron Burrell & Christopher Belcher tie for #5 in collegiate history (9.93), get polite golf claps.
— Jesse Squire (@tracksuperfan) June 8, 2017
It took 10.03 just to get to the final. Obviously the final is Coleman’s to lose, but Belcher and Burrell running as they did are notable as well. Burrell (Houston) was a high school star who didn’t run all that well in 2017 until the last two weeks, when he’s really come on. (I suspect a season-long technique rebuild that is finally paying off.) Belcher (NC A&T) ran well all season but since his program doesn’t have a big budget he rarely went to the really big meets, thus only now we see what he can really do. He ran 20.01 in the 200 semis as well.
Relay semis: Auburn and NC A&T posted the fastest 4×100 times and looked the best. Houston has the most speed on paper but has had exchange problems all year; here their third leg didn’t get out fast enough and second leg Cameron Burrell nearly ran him over. The Cougars could be dangerous if they can get it straightened out. Florida did not qualify and lost out on crucial team points – but unless Texas A&M runs better on Friday, they’re not going to score much either.
But when it came to the 4×400 semis, Texas A&M ran 2:59.95, one of the fastest times in NCAA history and seemingly just playing around. They look like they can go much faster. LSU was the only major player who did not qualify through to the final.
1500 semis: The first semi went out fast thanks to Colorado’s Ben Saarel, possibly because he feared being outkicked (a reasonable fear given that he was outkicked and grabbed the fifth and final qualifying spot). In the end the top runners in both heats closed in 55.x seconds and there were no major upsets in terms of qualifying. New Mexico’s Josh Kerr looked the best, and Ole Miss’ Craig Engels and Oregon’s Blake Haney looked good too. A pair of Oklahoma State Cowboys, Josh Thompson and Craig Nowak, not only ran well but ran smart, hanging back early and slipping into qualifying positions with apparent ease.
Steeplechase semis: If you only looked at the results you’d figure that nothing exciting happened, but you’d be wrong. Oklahoma senior Dylan Blankenbaker, who was fourth in this event at last year’s NCAA Championships, hit a barrier and fell with three laps to go. It appeared he had no chance to qualify – he was about 30 yards behind the last automatic qualifying spot – but he worked his way back into contention and ended up fifth in his heat. He nabbed the last qualifying spot.
Hurdle semis: Florida’s Grant Holloway won the 60 hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships and assumes the mantle of favorite, but it’s by no means a sure thing. I think Illinois’ David Kendziera and Iowa’s Aaron Mallett could push him or possibly even beat him in Friday’s final.
The big shocker in the hurdle semis was Texas Byron Robinson, who did not make the 400 hurdle final. He had the year’s best time and was an Olympic finalist last summer, but did not run well here.
Both Kendziera and Pitt’s Desmond Palmer qualified to the finals of both the 110 and 400 meter hurdles. It’s rare for one athlete to do it, but two in one year seems very unusual.
800 semis: UTEP’s Emmanuel Korir ran as he pleased to win his semi – but that’s expected when you’ve run 1:43.73 and a sub-44 relay split. Both Texas A&M and Florida got finalists in Devin Dixon and Andres Arroyo, and every little point is going to count for both of those teams.
Long Jump final: Florida’s Grant Holloway was looking at disaster after two fouls to open the competition. Down to his last attempt, he turned to the crowd and howled for their support, then flew out to 8.00 meters (26′ 3″) which held up for second. Other than that it all went to form: his teammate KeAndre Bates took the win to finish an NCAA indoor/outdoor sweep, and Texas A&M’s Wil Williams was third.
Pole Vault final: The event ended up as an all-Ohio battle between Akron’s Matt Ludwig and Cincinnati’s Adrian Valles. They were the only two to clear 5.55 meters (18′ 2½”) and were even on all tiebreakers at the next height. Valles had three misses and Ludwig only avoided a jumpoff by clearing on his final attempt. Texas A&M came up a bit short of what they hoped in the points department by scoring 5½ here with a 5th-place tie and a 7th.
Shot Put final: Virginia’s Filip Mihaljevic won in a mild upset. It was an upset because runner-up Mostafa Hassan of Colorado State was the NCAA indoor champion and had the year’s best throw, but only a mild one since Mihaljevic was the defending champion. He was in fine form and finished off the meet with a career-best throw of 21.30 meters (69′ 10¾”).
Javelin final: Texas A&M’s Ioannis Kyriazis was the pre-meet favorite based on his massive 88.01 throw at the Texas Relays in March. He put it away early here with a meet record 82.58 in the second round. Mississippi State’s Nicolas Quijera, just sixth at the SEC Championships, improved his PR by more than two meters for a big upset in second.
Hammer final: Cornell’s Rudy Winkler made a big splash at last summer’s Olympic Trials when he made the team in an upset, but hadn’t looked so good this year. He said he’d been dealing with a back injury and slowly regaining form. He hit a big throw of 74.12 meters (243′ 2″) in the third round and it held up for the win. Alex Young of Southeast Louisiana threw a big PR in the final round to move into second, and pre-meet favorite Gleb Dudarev of Kansas responded but came up 8 inches short and settled for third. The Georgia Bulldogs are in contention for one of the four team trophies and picked up points in fifth and seventh place.