Oregon rises up from fourth place to claim fourth consecutive indoor title
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Earlier this week, Louisiana State coach Dennis Shaver predicted that the women’s team title at the 2013 NCAA DI Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships would not be decided until the final event, the 4x400 relay.
And indeed, the top three teams entered that event Saturday night separated by just seven points. However, it was not Shaver’s top-ranked Lady Tigers nor the second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks who finished on the winners podium. Nor was it third-ranked Arkansas, competing at home in the Randal Tyson Track Center.
Instead it was the fourth-ranked Oregon Ducks, competing with a rebuild roster, who claimed their fourth consecutive NCAA indoor track title.
“I’m absolutely elated,” Oregon coach Robert Johnson said. “This one is probably sweeter than the others, even though they’re all sweet. This one right here, we really had to dig down deep and perform.”
The Ducks claimed their only event title of the weekend when they needed it most, in the 4x400. However, three Oregon athletes had second-place finishes to help the team gain 56 points. Kansas was second with 44, followed by LSU with 43 and Arkansas with 42.5. Going into the 4x400, Oregon led Kansas by just three points and LSU by seven.
“For us to come here and win is huge,” Johnson said. “We talked to the girls this morning about being champions of our fate. We wanted to come in, do what we’re supposed to do and just be Oregon. If we can be Oregon, we’ll be all right. To win that 4x400 at the end, kudos to them.”
Several individuals followed Oregon’s lead in defending their NCAA indoor titles this weekend.
Oklahoma senior and 2012 U.S. Olympian Tia Brooks dominated the women’s shot put competition. She had two of the top-five collegiate indoor shot puts of all time on Sunday, including the record at 19.22m/63-0 ¾. No other athlete threw farther than 18 meters.
“That’s definitely been a goal all year, and to get there feels like a huge weight has been lifted,” said Brooks, who won the indoor and outdoor shot put titles last year. “I feel so blessed to be able to do this…I just changed my technique not even a week ago, so to be able to win is really heart warming and proves I can do it in a competition.”
Brigetta Barrett, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist from Arizona, won her fifth NCAA high jump championship on Friday. She secured the championship by clearing 1.95m/6-4 ¾ but couldn’t quite get over the collegiate record height of 1.99m/6-6 ¼.
Kimberlyn Duncan, a senior from LSU and the winner of last year’s Bowerman Award, won her fifth NCAA 200-meter title on Friday, having won back-to-back indoor/outdoor titles in 2011 and 2012. She now has four of the world’s best six times in 2013. She finished seventh in the 60-meter finals on Saturday.
In the first event of the weekend, Indiana State senior Felisha Johnson won her second NCAA weight throw championship in three years with a throw of 23.52m/77-2.
“It is kind of sad, but that was a good way to end it,” she said.
Several new stars shined in Fayetteville as well. Clemson junior Brianna Rollins, who set the collegiate 60-meter hurdles record of 7.78 seconds in January, set the NCAA indoor championships record at 7.82 in the prelims. She then lowered it to 7.79 in the finals, where she won.
“I feel like I had a pretty good race,” she said. "I hit one or two hurdles. Having those athletes run on a high level with me, it gave me the push in competitiveness that I need.”
Another standout performance came in the 400 meters on Saturday, when Georgia freshman Shaunae Miller held off a strong field that included the 2012 NCAA indoor and outdoor champions. Miller won in a blazing 50.88 seconds.