Akela Jones in the heptathlon long jump (© Kirby Lee)
Just two days into the NCAA Championships in Eugene, meeting records have been broken in two events while several others have withstood strong challenges.
The four-day event, which began on Wednesday (10) and ends on Saturday (14), has brought the best US collegiate athletes to Hayward Field, venue of the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships and future host of the 2021 IAAF World Championships.
Akela Jones and Kendell Williams were among the winners at the same stadium at last year’s World Junior Championships, Jones taking gold in the long jump and Williams winning the 100m hurdles. But this week, the pair lined up against one another in the heptathlon.
Williams unsurprisingly won the first event, clocking 13.08 in the 100m hurdles, but Jones took the lead after the next event, having cleared 1.84m in the high jump. The Kansas State student maintained her lead through to the end of the competition, setting a huge PB of 14.85m in the shot and rounding out the first day with a wind-assisted 23.45 in the 200m.
Jones, who began the second day with a leading margin of more than 200 points, extended her lead after leaping a wind-assisted 6.53m in the long jump. She then smashed her PB in the javelin with 38.13m and ended her series with a 2:29.43 clocking in the 800m.
It brought her winning tally to 6371, just 155 points shy of the collegiate record set by Diane Guthrie-Gresham in 1995. Counting performances within her series for a wind-legal mark, Jones’ score of 6303 broke her own Barbadian record.
Williams set a PB of 6223 to finish second, 76 points ahead of Quintunya Chapman.
Estonia’s Maicel Uibo, representing Georgia, successfully defended his decathlon title. The 22-year-old moved into the lead after the fourth event, having cleared 2.14m in the high jump to bag valuable points.
But a 51.65 clocking in the 400m, almost a second behind Arizona’s Pau Tonnesen, meant that Uibo ended the first day in second place. Tonnesen continued to lead after clocking 14.87 in the 110m hurdles, throwing 45.53m in the discus and clearing 5.30m in the pole vault to equal his PB.
Both athletes set PBs in the javelin, Uibo throwing 62.25m to Tonnesen’s 57.52m and moving into the overall lead by 23 points with just the 1500m to go.
Despite setting a PB of 4:41.77, Tonnesen trailed the overall leader by 13 seconds in the 1500m, as Uibo won with 8356, adding 30 points to the PB he set earlier this year. Tonnesen added more than 400 points to his PB with his score of 8247, the best performance by a Spanish decathlete for 16 years.
Meeting records for Payne and Price
Demi Payne and Sandi Morris have exchanged collegiate records in the pole vault all season, so few were surprised to see the meeting record fall in Eugene.
Both athletes surpassed the previous mark of 4.45m and still had clean cards through to 4.50m. They then skipped 4.55m and Payne went into the lead with her first-time clearance at 4.60m. Morris got over it on her second try, but the same scenario played out at the next height, 4.65m.
With the bar at 4.70m, Payne once again only needed one attempt to clear it. Morris failed her first try, then went straight to 4.75m but failed to clear it with her remaining two attempts. Payne also failed to get over that bar, but had the competition won.
In the hammer, DeAnna Price of Southern Illinois moved into the lead in the third round with 67.33m. She then set a PB of 68.33m in round five, but still wasn’t finished. With the final throw of the competition, she sent her hammer out to a meeting record of 71.49m, almost four metres farther than her pre-competition PB.
A record of a different kind was broken in the women’s shot; again in the last round and again by an athlete representing Southern Illinois.
Wisconsin’s Kelsey Card took an early lead with 16.91m, which was then bettered by five athletes in the next round, topped by world junior silver medallist Raven Saunders, who threw 17.39m.
Card regained the lead in round three with 17.51m and then extended it with a PB of 17.96m in the penultimate round. Tori Bliss tried to respond, but her 17.83m wasn’t enough and moved her into second place. But then Saunders, the youngest in the field, unleashed an outdoor PB of 18.35m.
Not only did she snatch the victory, but she also broke her own outdoor US junior record.
Lucky number seven for Cheserek
Edward Cheserek went to Hayward Field with six individual NCAA titles under his belt. Competing on his home track, the University of Oregon student notched up his seventh title by winning the 10,000m from team-mate Eric Jenkins.
After a slow first half, which was covered just a shade inside 15 minutes, the pace began to pick up. Craig Lutz of Texas took up the running and led at 6000m from Jason Witt and Cheserek with Jenkins a couple of seconds in arrears.
Two kilometres later, it was still the same four athletes out in front, their lead over the chase pack having grown to about six seconds. Jenkins hit the front with three laps left and Lutz was the first of the lead quartet to drop back.
Cheserek then came through for the win in 28:58.92, finishing a stride ahead of Jenkins. Witt was five seconds behind in third place.
Fast sprints and big jumps
As ever at the NCAA Championships, there were incredible performances in the sprints, hurdles and jumps.
Defending champion Trayvon Bromell has run faster than 10 seconds for the 100m on three occasions this year, but all have been wind assisted. The world junior record-holder, representing Baylor, finally got lucky with the conditions in the 100m semi-finals on Wednesday, clocking a lifetime best of 9.90 (1.7m/s).
His time was just 0.01 shy of the collegiate record. It is also the fastest time in history by a teenager, breaking Yohan Blake’s world age-19 best of 9.93.
Behind him, Andre De Grasse qualified for the final with ease, clocking 9.98. World junior champion Kendal Williams clocked a PB of 10.07 to also make it into Friday’s final.
Bromell also led the qualifiers for the 200m final after clocking a PB of 20.03 in the semi-final. His time was matched by Dedric Dukes, while DeGrasse and Williams also made it through, running 20.09 and 20.30 respectively.
The women’s sprints were just as impressive. Morolake Akinosun of Texas posted the fastest time of the semi-finals with her wind-assisted 10.96 (3.0m/s), closely followed by Kentucky’s Dezerea Bryant, who clocked 10.99. Oregon’s Jenna Prandini was next fastest with a wind-legal 11.03 (2.0m/s).
All three athletes also made it into the 200m final, but were outclassed in the semi-finals by Florida’s Kyra Jefferson, who sped to a PB of 22.26 (1.8m/s). NCAA indoor champion Kamaria Brown was just 0.03 slower in her heat, but was aided by a 4.6m/s tailwind.
Prandini had the best wind-legal mark in the long jump final, leaping a PB of 6.80m (1.7m/s), but she had to settle for second place behind Alabama’s Quanesha Burks, who flew out to a wind-assisted 6.91m (2.6m/s).
Having won the horizontal jumps double at the 2014 NCAA Championships and 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships, Marquis Dendy came one step closer to achieving his third such double after winning the long jump.
The 22-year-old, representing Florida, took an early lead with 8.00m and then sailed out to a wind-assisted 8.43m (2.3m/s) in the third round. That remained the best mark of the competition, but he followed it with wind-legal marks of 8.27m and 8.34m in rounds four and five.
Jarrion Lawson came straight from the 100m semi-finals, having clocked a PB of 10.04 to advance to the final, and jumped a windy 8.24m in round two. He ended his series with a PB of 8.34m (0.2m/s) but it wasn’t enough to catch Dendy.
Kendra Harrison is seeking to emulate her namesake Queen Harrison as the only athlete in NCAA history to win titles in the 60m hurdles, 100m hurdles and 400m hurdles in the same year. The Kentucky student, who won the NCAA indoor 60m hurdles title earlier this year, led the qualifiers in both events, clocking a wind-assisted 12.59 in the 100m hurdles and 55.45 in the 400m hurdles, both performances coming just 75 minutes apart.
Fellow NCAA indoor champion Omar McLeod was fastest in the 110m hurdles rounds, posting a wind-assisted 13.08.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF