Six Top Takeaways from NCAAs

The 2019 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships Introduced a Wealth of New Stars

Every June, it seems impossible to top the previous spring’s NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, but somehow the current crop of collegiate athletes always manage to do so. Despite the absence of 2018 megastars Sydney McLaughlin, Michael Norman, Rai Benjamin, Karissa Schweizer (we could go on…), the NCAA finals were on fire. Almost literally. Ninety-plus degree temperatures in Austin, Texas nearly guaranteed fast sprint times and, surprisingly enough, did not deter the distance runners from setting all-time marks as well.

While typically the top NCAA performers can be expected to continue their dominance at the USATF Championships and wrangle a spot on an international team, this year’s World Championships aren’t until October—nearly two months later than usual. That puts USAs in late July and student-athletes way past their seasonal peak. So while you may not see some of the following athletes advance to Worlds this year, they are certainly on every pro athlete, coach, agent and sponsor’s radar for our next magical, Olympic year of track and field: 2020.

Meet the movers and shakers of NCAA track and field 2019.

Sha’Carri Richardson emerges as a world-beater

LSU freshman Sha’Carri Richardson was undoubtedly the brightest star of a weekend filled with phenomenal performances.

 The 19-year-old Texas native, who announced this week she is giving up the remainder of her collegiate eligibility to turn pro, entered the championships as one of four women with a sub-11 second personal best, but left the 100-meter final as the certified star—and it only took 10.75 seconds. Her extremely wind-legal 10.75 (+1.6) broke a 30-year-old collegiate record—the 10.78 set by fellow LSU Tiger Dawn Sowell in 1989—and crushed the 42-year-old world junior record.

In the 200m, she narrowly lost to USC’s now two-time champion Anglerne Annelus, 22.35 to 22.37, though Richardson could take some consolation in the fact that her time set her second world junior record of the weekend.

But back to that blazing 100 meters—Richardson is the fifth-fastest American, ever. She’s the ninth-fastest woman in the entire world this year. And the ninth-fastest, ever. That’s a time that could win Olympic gold. And that’s why Richardson should be on your radar.

Divine Oduduru is one of the best all-time men’s sprinters

While Richardson’s performance was shocking, Texas Tech’s Divine Oduduru entered the championships as a heavy favorite to sweep the 100m and 200m, and boy did he deliver. The junior from Nigeria capped his undefeated season with a mouthwatering 9.86 (+0.8) in the 100m and a 19.73 (+0.8) in the 200m, both of which are the No. 2 all-time marks in NCAA history and combines for the fastest one-day double in world history.

Oduduru’s 20 individual points were also paramount in helping the Red Raiders secure their first-ever NCAA team title in men’s outdoor track and field. Texas Tech scored 60 total points, with Florida taking runner-up team honors with 50 points and Houston finishing third with 40 points.

Grant Holloway makes everyone eat their words with NCAA hurdle record

Track and field legend and former world record holder Renaldo Nehemiah has held the NCAA record of 13.00 in the 110-meter hurdles since 1979. In 40 years, the closest anyone’s come to breaking his record was Devin Allen, clocking 13.16 in 2014.

That changed this season, when Kentucky’s Daniel Roberts and Florida’s Grant Holloway chased each other down into the 13.10s, then the 13.00s. Finally, at NCAAs, Holloway eclipsed the much-hyped record with a 12.98 while Roberts tied the old record of 13.00.

While it’s hard to say Holloway was any kind of “underdog” during the season, he certainly felt underlooked compared to Roberts, given his “Eat Your Words!” comment to media in the mixed zone after the race.

Expect Holloway’s record to stand for a long time and these two newly minted pro athletes to continue their rivalry through the Olympic cycle.

Mondo and Chris Nilsen’s pole vault rivalry is just getting started

Speaking of great rivalries, perhaps the best head-to-head battle of the weekend went down in the men’s pole vault. LSU freshman Armand “Mondo” Duplantis has had very few misses in his precocious career, which included an NCAA indoor title, NCAA indoor record of 5.92m and NCAA outdoor record of 6.00m just this year.

But it was Chris Nilsen, a young father at South Dakota with a part-time job as a barista, who took the NCAA outdoor crown on the first day of competition in Austin. He cleared 5.90m for the very first time and then promptly cleared 5.95m, which would be the winning height, leaving Duplantis unable to keep pace. 

Duplantis, who represents his mother’s native Sweden, has already announced what is likely a lucrative Puma sponsorship. Nilsen, meanwhile, is set to finish out his final year of collegiate eligibility at South Dakota. Both athletes will be major contenders in this summer’s World Championships and next year’s Olympic Games.

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It’s official… @pumaperformance #pumafam #borntofly

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Janeek Brown is a world-level hurdle threat

Arkansas sophomore Janeek Brown showed up big-time in the 100-meter hurdles final with a 12.40 win to set a world lead and finishing just a tenth of a second off the collegiate record. According to FloTrack, only world record holder Keni Harrison and Olympic champion Brianna McNeal have run faster in the past three years—making Brown an automatic medal threat this cycle. The time also stands as a new Jamaican national record.

Brown also showed off her wheels in the 200m with a 22.40 run for fourth place. Her individual points were crucial for the Razorbacks, who narrowly beat out USC for the team title, 64 to 57 points.

Allie Ostrander approaches legend status

The women’s steeplechase was perhaps not the most exciting distance final of the NCAA Championships, as Boise State’s Allie Ostrander won by a significant margin of seven seconds. But her victory was the most historic, as it marked her third straight NCAA steeplechase title. No other athlete has won three in a row, and she could make it four—thanks to her remaining year of eligibility.

Ostrander’s winning time of 9:37.73 set a new facility record at the University of Texas’ Myers Stadium as well as the fastest collegiate time in 2019. The redshirt junior now ranks No. 6 in collegiate history.

The Alaska native doubled back for the 5K about 75 minutes later, where she placed 16th in 16:28.19 in the scorching Texas heat. Whether she ultimately pursues the steeplechase or the 5K (on fresh legs), Ostrander is one of the sport’s brightest young stars.

And aside from being speedy as hell, she’s not scared to speak her mind. This week, she sparked social media conversation about sexism in sports broadcasting with a viral instagram post criticizing the ESPN commentators for fixating on her body instead of her performance during the race. A woke track queen? True legend status.

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I would like to precede this rant by saying that I am incredibly grateful for the equal coverage that @espn provided for both the men’s and women’s NCAA track and field championships. This is often not the case as 40% of athletes are females, but they only receive 4% of sports media coverage. With that said, I was disappointed with the commentary that has occurred during my races for the past two years. Both times, the comments have brought attention to my appearance more than my ability. In 2018, I was called “the baby faced assassin” and told that I looked like I still played with barbies. This year, the commentators found it necessary to state (incorrectly I might add) my height and weight multiple times. Not only were these comments objectifying and unnecessary, they drew attention away from the real focus of the event. People attend this event and listen to the commentary because they want to see what we are capable of, not what we look like we’re capable of. So why do the commentators insist on providing information that has nothing to do with performance in the sport? In a sport where eating disorders and body dysmorphia are so common, the media has an opportunity to help women (and men!) feel capable, powerful, and worthy, but, by focusing on appearance and body proportions, this opportunity is missed. And anyway, everyone looked hot on Saturday so there was really no need to comment 🤷‍♀️😜 • • • #womeninsport #NCAATF #bodypositivity

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