(© Kirby Lee)
Raven Saunders' world lead in the women's shot put and an unprecedented fourth title in the pentathlon by Kendell Williams highlighted the first day of action at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas, on Friday (10).
Saunders, an Olympic finalist, surpassed the 19-metre barrier twice on the evening, first with a 19.20m effort in the third round, just three centimetres shy of her own NCAA indoor record. She then capped the competition by smashing the mark with a 19.56m toss in the final round.
The throw added 28 centimetres to the world indoor lead and elevated her to fourth on the US indoor all-time list. Boding well, it was also 23 centimetres better than her own outdoor collegiate record of 19.33m.
"I knew throughout the season leading up to this meet, I knew there was a big throw coming," Saunders, 20, said.
"I knew it was just a matter of just setting up my technique and going after it. Coming into the last throw, I had nothing to lose so I just went after it."
While Saunders won her title by 1.16m, Egypt's Mostafa Amr Hassan was even more dominant in the men's competition.
Competing for Colorado State University, Hassan reached 21.27m to solidify his No.4 spot on the yearly indoor list, to win by 1.39m. The effort fell just three centimetres shy of his two-week old national indoor record.
Williams collects fourth straight pentathlon title
In the pentathlon, University of Georgia senior Kendell Williams became the first four-time champion in meeting history, dominating the competition with a 4682-point tally, the fourth best of the 2017 indoor season.
Opening with an 8.03 personal best in the 60m hurdles, the 21-year-old topped 1.78m in the high jump, reached 12.96m in the shot put and soared 6.47m in the long jump before ending the day with a 2:15.61 run in the 800m, another personal best.
Taliyah Brooks from the University of Arkansas finished second with 4580, a hefty improvement of 123 points on her previous career best.
Williams added two points to her team's overall tally with a seventh-place finish in the long jump with 6.43m, but was well under the shadow of Sha'Keela Saunders who captured the event in dramatic style. The University of Kentucky senior sailed 6.90m in the final round to steal the title from Quanesha Burks of the University of Alabama who reached 6.72m in round five to lead Saunders heading into the sixth round.
For Saunders, the 2015 Pan American Games bronze medallist, the leap was her farthest ever indoors or out, eclipsing her previous indoor best of 6.82m set two weeks ago and one centimetre better that her outdoor best set at last year's national championships. It also moved her up a notch to fourth on this year's world indoor list.
Nineteen-year-old Chris Nilsen, a freshman at the University of South Dakota, topped 5.70m to win the pole vault, equalling his own US U20 record. Audie Wyatt from Texas A&M was second with 5.55m.
Elsewhere on the infield, KeAndre Bates of the University of Florida won the men's long jump with 8.04m and Williams' teammate Madeline Fagan won the women's high jump at 1.93m.
Cheserek bags 16th NCAA individual title
University of Oregon senior Edward Cheserek got his busy weekend off to a solid start. The 23-year-old Kenyan won his third NCAA indoor 5000m title, a record-breaking 16th overall collegiate individual title.
Cheserek clocked 13:41.20 to cruise to the win after opening the day with a 3:59.30 in the mile prelims, the fastest on the day. He'll race twice again on Saturday, first in the mile final and again in the 3000m.
"I try to win them all," Cheserek said, grinning. "Sixteen is a lot, but I'm focused on getting 17 and 18 and hopefully more. I'm just focused day by day and, for now, just thinking about the mile tomorrow."
Christian Coleman of the University of Tennessee and Fred Kerley of Texas A&M produced the leading performances in the opening rounds of the sprints. Coleman led all 60m qualifiers with 6.50 while Kerley blazed 45.10 in the 400m.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF