Jeff Demps (near left) wins the 60m dash at the 2012 NCAA Indoors (© Getty Images)
The NCAA indoor team championships (9 - 10 March) were runaway victories for favoured Florida (men) and Oregon (women) – each winning for the third straight time -- but there were plenty of excellent individual performances and some notable upsets.
The only double of the meet was scored by Kenyan Lawi Lalang, now a sophomore at the University of Arizona, who benefits by having Bernard Lagat as a training partner under coach James Li. In Friday (9) evening’s 5000m, Lalang outsprinted Stanford junior Chris Derrick, 13:25.11 to 13:26.88. Twenty-four hours later in the 3000, Derrick made it closer, but Lalang again was a little too strong in the last half-lap, winning in 7:46.64 to Derrick’s 7:46.81.
The 750-metres altitude didn’t seem to bother the distance runners, but it may well have helped the sprinters, especially two who have abandoned U.S. Football for Athletics. Ameer Webb of Texas A flashed into the Olympic picture by leading the trials in a world season leading 20.39 sec, and came back to win the final just as convincingly in 20.57. And in the 60m, Florida’s Jeff Demps, after winning his heat in a quick 6.52 took the final in 6.56, outleaning Jamaican Andrew Riley of Illinois, second in 6.57.
In the 60m Hurdles, Riley, the defending champion, was fastest in the heats (7.55), but only fourth in the final behind Jarret Eaton of Syracuse, the winner in 7.54.
Miles Batty of Brigham Young, who set a collegiate record 3:54.54 for the Mile four weeks earlier, had a rough trip here. On Friday, after leading the qualifiers with 4:03.85, Batty returned to the track to anchor BYU’s distance medley relay. But a fall earlier in the race left him 40/50 metres down. He ran something like a 3:57 for his 1600m carry and amazingly brought BYU from tenth to a close third-place finish. But next day in the mile final, a fresh Chris O’Hare of Tulsa led all the way to win in 4:01.66, holding off Rich Peters of Boston University (4:01.78) and Batty, who took third in 4:01.86.
The upsets continued in the High Jump, where 2.33m jumper Erik Kynard, the 2011 NCAA outdoor champion, could only manage a tie for fourth place at 2.20, behind Nick Ross of Arizona, who won on the countback at 2.23.
Perhaps the best field-event performances were in the Shot Put. Bosnian Kemal Mesic of Florida came into the final round leading by half a metre at 20.44m -- only to see himself passed by Arizona State junior Jordan Clarke’s winning put of 20.86 and runner-up Jacob Thormaehlen of Texas, second with 20.50.
In the Triple Jump Florida, which lost NCAA outdoor 1-2 finishers Christian Taylor and Will Claye to the professional ranks, still had Omar Craddock, who won handily with 16.75.
In the Heptathlon, Duke junior Curtis Beach, eighth after the first day, jumped all the way to first in the final event, the 1000 metres. Beach toured his kilometre in 2:23.63, the approximate equivalent of a 3:45 1500m or a 4:03 Mile -- pretty tough stuff for multi-eventers.
Five performers stood out in the women’s events: one runner, two jumpers, one thrower and one combined eventer.
- Diamond Dixon, a University of Kansas sophomore, crushed the 400m field with a 51.78 race that saw her win by ¾-seconds over Arkansas junior Regina George.
- Brigetta Barrett, an Arizona junior, won the High Jump with a 1.96 clearance and a clean sheet up to and including that height, and put her 12cm ahead of runner-up Krystal Schade.
- Whitney Gipson, a Texas Christian senior, set a meet record with a Long Jump of 6.91m that also tied the collegiate record.
- Jeneva McCall, a Southern Illinois senior, moved to No. 9 on the event’s all-time list, winning the 20-pound Weight Throw with a mark of 22.90m, nearly five meters ahead of runner-up Ida Storm of UCLA. McCall also took second in the shot put.
- Brianna Theisen, an Oregon senior from Canada, successfully defended her Pentathlontitle with 4536 points, just four points shy of the meet record she set a year ago.
That wasn’t all.
In the 60m dash, English Gardner, an Oregon freshman from New Jersey, launched Oregon’s successful team defence with two impressive races, posting the fastest heat time (7.17) and then winning the final in 7.12. Close behind was Octavious of Central Florida, second in 7.15. And 2011 indoor and outdoor NCAA 200-metre champion Kimberlyn Duncan of Louisiana made winning again look easy, cruising to a two-metre victory in 22.74 over Texas sophomore Allison Peter (ISV).
Betsy Saina of Kenya and Iowa States won a hotly contested 5000 metres in 15:38.83, sprinting away in the final lap from California’s Deborah Maier. Both also medalled in the 3000, won by Emily Infeld of Georgetown who sprinted past both of them in the final 20 metres to win in 9:15.44, with Maier again second and Saina third.
Other noteworthy marks included: Oklahoma’s Tia Brooks win in the Shot Put with a PB of 19.00m, a full metre better than her previous best; a good 60 metre Hurdles final, won by Ohio State senior Christina Manning in 7.91, with Brianna of Clemson close behind in 7.93; and a 4.45 pole vault by Arkansas’ Tina Sutej (SLO) in a successful defence of her title.
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James Dunaway for the IAAF