The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

NCAA Championships Review

Jun 10th, 2019
8:40 am PST

It’s June, and there have been track meets being run all spring. But the weather has been horrible up to now, and results have been scattered. It seems like every meet has been “so-so” with the occasional “wow” race thrown in. Like we had Michael Norman scream 43.45 at MtSac. Then Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman square off at 9.86 each – Lyles for the win. Then Lyles and Norman just a few days ago go 19.70/19.72 Norman getting his first ever 200 victory over Noah. But mostly the “pros” have been quiet. Their real focus being on the World Championships (not happening until September) and National championships (most coming in July).

So it’s been up to the collegiate ranks to provide most of the early season excitement, as they’ve had league and regional titles to fight for on their way to this weekends National Championships. And what a meet the NCAA meet was this year! With the University of Oregon’s facilities being renovated, we got to see the meet moved into the heart of the US for a change. This time to the University of Texas. Trading damp, cold Eugene Oregon, for hot, lightly humid Austin Texas. The change of scenery did wonders for anything involving speed – which means the bulk of track events.

The meet has an interesting format with the men and women’s events trading days. Day 1 men’s semis, day 2 women’s semis, day 3 men’s finals, and day 4 women’s finals. I’m not a big fan of the format, which they say was done to keep better track of the team races. Personally, I think that’s what computers are for, and TV announcers should do a better job of utilizing the technology. Regardless, the athletes out on a show this year that was one for the ages.

Men’s finals started with a national record in the opening event as the University of Florida became the first college team under 38, as they screamed to a 37.97! In their wake Florida State had the privilege of running 38.08 and losing, as the last place was a blistering 38.92. We’re talking World Championships caliber competition here!

That continued in the 110H as rivals Grant Holloway (UF) lined up next to Daniel Roberts (UK). They’ve been making noise all year with Roberts finally getting the best of Holloway at the SEC meet. At the gun it was clearly a two man race with Holloway edging ahead mid way and never letting go. Crossing the finish line he threw his hand up as the clock stopped at 12.98! Breaking the collegiate record of 13.00 set by one Renaldo Nehemiah 40 years ago! Roberts tying the old record in second. And just like that America is back in the hurdle game. Well maybe not just because of this race as this pair had been regularly under 13.20 lately.

Before the track could cool off however, the sprinters moved the blocks and for ready to run the 100. It had taken 10.06 to get out of the semis, with four men running under 10! The final was set to be a cracker as they say in Britain and it didn’t disappoint. After a fairly even start, Texas Tech’s Divine Oduduru began to move mid race and flashed through the finish in 9.86 – 2nd fastest time ever in NCAA history, and a Nigerian national record. Cravon Gillespie (UO) finished second in 9.93 with Hakim Sani Brown (UF) crossing in 9.94 – a Japanese national record. This trio could well compete again in Doha. For now, they got to face each other less than an hour later in the 200 where they again finished ahead of the rest, and in the same order as Oduduru blazed 19.73 to become the second fastest collegian yet again, and clearly make himself a global threat. Gillespie also got under 20 with his PR 19.93, with Brown 20.08 in third. Once again it was outstanding mid race acceleration the propelled Oduduru to the Erin as he repeated his win from last year.

The men’s side of the meet finished with yet another set of fireworks as Texas A&M came within a literal eyelash of the collegiate record in the 4×4 at 2:59.05 -.05 away from the record set last year by USC! They were pushed by Florida and their 2:59.60 anchored by Grant Holloway in 43.7!

They must have placed an electric blanket over the track, because the next day find it hot and ready for the women. Once again the meet opened hot in the 4×1 as USC and LSU squared off in the middle of the track. SC clearly had foot speed to win this race, but LSU has history in this event and is known for its passing. It was USC however, that got anchor Twanisha (TT) Terry the baton ahead of Sha’Carri Richardson with both setting sail for the finish. As usual, Richardson began a midrace surge that looked like it might win the day, but Terry held her off for the win – 42.21 to 42.29. The sixth and eighth fastest times in college history.

They would meet again within an hour in the open 100. Two of four young ladies entering the race with personal bests of 10.9. Like the men, they too were blazing. This time freshman Richardson dominating with a mid race surge that carried her through the finish with her hands raised high in an amazing 10.75! Collegiate record,  world junior record, American junior record and World leader and making her =#9 performer in world history!

She returned to face Terry’s teammate, defending champion Anglerne Annelus in the 200. After sterling turns, Richardson and Annelus ran side by side up the straight to the line. Both leaned with Annelus just a hair better as she won 22.16 to 22.17 – becoming # 4 & 5 all time college, and Richardson getting the world junior record in that event as well.

The women also finished with a cracking 4×4. Texas A&M taking a 3:25.57 to 4:25.89 win over Arkansas. Both just missing their own school records and the collegiate top ten. The second place finish did secure the team title for Arkansas who was in a battle with USC.

This meet was one of the best in history. Not just the records set, but depth and excitement of the competition. By the way, Divine Oduduru’s sprint double lead the Red Raiders of Texas Tech to their first national title. While Grant Holloway lead the Florida Gators to a runner up after winning the title last year. The Gators perhaps the best squad to not win the title after performances of 37.97, 12.98, 9.97, 20.08, 45.24, and 2:59.60! Incredible. I hope the NCAA (and USATF) take a look at the performances, weather, competition, and crowds in Austin and realize that there are other places worthy of holding championship meets aside from Eugene.

Meanwhile, the pros may want to take a look back at this meet. There is new talent ready to emerge at Trials and Worlds. It may be June, but things are just starting to heat up!

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