Des Moines, USA - The four-day NCAA Championships began with an explosion of fast times in the men’s 400m, and the 100m dash, and 4x100m and 4x400 relays in both genders – and continued with excellent performances through its conclusion on Saturday (9).
McQuay takes hot 400m in 44.58
The hottest individual racing was the men’s 400. Three heats produced winning times of 45.17, by David Verburg of George Mason, 45.05 by Mike Berry of Oregon and 44.67 by Tony McQuay of Florida, the latter being chased across the line by Josh Mance of Southern California in 44.83 and Gil Roberts of Texas Tech in 44.83. Houston’s Errol Nolan, who ran 45.28, didn’t make the final.
The final, two days later, was even faster. Coming off the final turn Roberts in Lane 3 led with Berry almost even in 6. But McQuay, in Lane 5, drew even halfway down the straight and then inched ahead of Berry as Roberts faded. McQuay hit the line in 44.58, with Berry second in 44.75, and Roberts third in 44.99. Outside of the Olympics and the Worlds, not many people can say they’ve run sub-45 twice in three days.
Not surprisingly, the men’s 4x400m Relay final produced a race worthy of an Olympic semifinal. Florida needed to win to clinch the team title and did, thanks to a 44.1 split by McQuay which brought the Gators home in 3:00.02.
Back on Day One, Harry Adams of Auburn put himself into the Olympic Trials picture by winning his heat of the men’s 100m in 9.96 (+1.2). Others making the final (all wind-legal) included Jamaican Andrew Riley of Illinois, 10.02; Maurice Mitchell and Kemar Hyman (CAY) of Florida State, 10.03 and 10.04; and Charles Silmon of TCU, 10.05.
The 100m final, run into a 2.3m/s headwind, wasn’t as fast, but it sure was close. The first three, Riley, Adams and Mitchell, were all clocked in 10.28, with two others, Darrell Wesh of Virginia Tech and Auburn’s Marcus Rowland mere centimeters back in 10.30.
Gardner upsets Duncan in 100m
The women’s 100m was billed as a showdown between Oregon sophomore English Gardner and Louisiana State junior Kimberlyn Duncan, and so it was. Gardner’s start turned out to be the difference: she took a slight lead in the first 20 metres and held it all the way, winning in 11.10 to Duncan’s 11.16, into a 1.7 m/s headwind. In the 200, Gardner was not entered, and Duncan, the world leader won eased up by 3 metres in 22.86.
Jamaican Riley, fresh from his surprise win in the 100, found his "regular" event, the 110m Hurdles, a little easier. Running into a 3.5 m/s headwind, Riley won in 13.53, outsprinting Wayne Davis II of Texas A&M in the final dash to the finish. Ohio State’s Christina Manning, favored to win the women’s 100m Hurdles, just did, edging Brianna Rollins 12.89 to 12.91, hindered by a 3.1 headwind.
The women’s Triple Jump was marred by a controversy. Hanna Demydova (UKR) of Southern Mississippi led from her first attempt, a 14.20m (+2.0) effort. In round 4, Andrea Geubelle of Kansas produced an apparently wind-aided 14.32m to take the lead. After the event was concluded with Geubelle declared the winner, Southern Mississippi filed a protest and a device described as "Eagle Eye" apparently detected that the 14.32m was a foul jump, which relegated Geubelle to third place. After much discussion, Geubelle accepted the third-place plaque on the podium with tears streaming down her face.
Kynard impresses in High Jump
Kansas State high jumper Erik Kynard, who seems to rise to the big occasion, did so here. Behind Indiana’s Derek Drouin (CAN) after both had cleared 2.31m, Kynard popped neatly over the bar at 2.34m to win, and then missed two good efforts at 2.37m and one at 2.38m. In the women’s High Jump, defending champion Brigetta Barrett won the event at 1.90m, then cleared 1.93m and almost got over 1.96m.
Marquise Goodwin took the lead in the men’s Long Jump with his 8.19m opener and was never headed, putting a cherry on top with a final-round PB of 8.23m, his first 27-footer. Texas Christian senior Whitney Gipson added the NCAA outdoor Long Jump title to her indoor championship, backing up her wind-aided winning jump here of 6.82m (+2.4) with a wind-legal 6.80m.
Illinois State junior Tim Glover repeated as winner of the javelin with a throw of 81.69m, more than two metres better than the 79.62m of runner-up Sam Humphreys of Texas A&M (both were PBs). Glover fell just short of the meet record of 81.86m and the Olympic "A" standard of 82.00m. Pretty good for an athlete whose primary sport before entering university was golf.
Another repeat winner was Virginia Tech’s Alexander Ziegler (GER), all six of whose throws were good enough to win the Hammer Throw. His best, 75.78m, improved his PB by more than 2 metres, and led the field by more than 6.
In the men’s discus, Luke Bryan of Oklahoma led after the first three rounds with a throw of 59.50m. Then Chad Wright, a Nebraska sophomore from Jamaica, got serious: on his fourth throw he took the with 60.98m, and followed with a PB of 62.79m on his fifth to win. Mason Finley of Kansas jumped from ninth place to second on his final throw of 61.02m.
The women’s Pole Vault saw an upset, as defending champion and collegiate record holder at 4.61m Tina Sutej (SLO) of Arkansas, suffering from quad muscle problems, could do no better than sixth with a clearance of 4.25m. The winner was Stanford senior of Ekaterina Stefanidi (GRE), who cleared 4.45m.
Theisen tallies PB 6440 to take third Heptathlon title
In the multi-events Canadian Brianna Theisen of Oregon won her third consecutive NCAA Heptathlon title and the first seven finishers all scored PBs. Theisen’s 6,440 included individual PBs in four events -- 100m Hurdles, Shot Put, Long Jump and javelin, plus an outdoor PB in the High Jump – and her margin of victory 513 points.
Kurt Felix (GRN) of Boise State University joined the 8000 club with a 8062-point victory in the Decathlon which included PBs in the 100m, discus and Pole Vault.
One distance runner stood out: Canadian Cameron Levins, who attends Southern Utah, showed a fierce finishing kick in winning the men's 5000m and 10,000m. First he went into the last lap of the 10,000m in third place and then blew by Stephen Sambu (KEN) and Chris Derrick to win by 20 metres in 28:07.14. Three days later in the 5000m he did the same thing to Kenyans Paul Chelimo and Lawi Lalang, and this time I had my stop watch ready: Cameron covered the final 200m in 25.6 to finish 10m up in 13:40.05.
The men’s team championship was won by Florida, with 50 points, followed by Louisiana State, 48; Texas, 40; Florida State, 38; and Virginia Tech, 33. The women’s title was won handily by Louisiana with 76, to Oregon, 62; Texas A&M, 38; and Kansas and Clemson, both 28.