Underdogs on the rise
Scott, Freeman close to each other on and off the track
EUGENE, Ore. -- Octavious Freeman likes the 100. Aurieyall Scott prefers the 200. Either way, they are both among the fastest collegiate sprinters in both events.
After two days of semifinals at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., the duo easily qualified for the finals in both the 100 and 200 meters while also helping their 4x100 relay team finish with the secondbest semifinal time.
Their goal now is to go back to Central Florida in Orlando with three first-place finishes and two second-place finishes.
“The ultimate goal is to put UCF up there,” Scott said Thursday after wrapping up her semifinals. “No matter how the names fall, as along as UCF is up there 1-2, that is the only thing that matters.”
A perfect finish won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible either. Scott came into nationals with the best seed times in the 100 and 200 meters. Freeman arrived with the second-best seed time in the 200 and the third-best time in the 100. They then went on to finish 1-2 in the 100 semifinals on Wednesday. Although they finished fourth (Freeman) and seventh (Scott) in the 200 semis, they easily finished 1-2 in their heat.
“I always say that the hard part is over,” Scott said. “Making it through the rounds is the hard part. Now it’s time to go back to the hotel and get ready for the finals for the next few days.”
Others might argue that the hard part is just beginning. The women’s 100-meter field in Eugene is arguably the most stacked of any event. In addition to racing each other, Freeman and Scott will also be racing against defending champion English Gardner of Oregon and LSU star Kimberlyn Duncan, last year’s female winner of the Bowerman Award as the top collegiate track and field athlete. Together, those four sprinters all rank among the top 10 in college history.
The 200 is no easy task either, as Duncan has been utterly dominant in that event. She swept the indoor/outdoor titles in 2011 and 2012 and then took the indoor title in 2013.
Freeman and Scott are not fazed by the competition, though. They’re motivated by it.
“We are still the underdogs no matter what we do because our school, the name and the conference that we’re in,” said Scott, who won the first track and field national title in UCF history when she took the indoor 60-meter dash title in March. “So it’s going to give us a little more push, a little more drive, because we are the underdogs.”
The two underdogs are also roommates. Freeman, a sophomore from Lake Wales, Fla., moved into the dorms with Scott, a junior from Greenbelt, Md., when she arrived in Orlando last year. “We’ve been friends ever since,” Freeman said.
“We’re similar in a lot of ways, but we have our differences,” Freeman said. “Aurieyall is more of a shy person and I am more of a people person, and I am hyper and she is cool, and then she likes the jamming music, she is always bouncing around, and I am just relaxed.”
When they’re back in the dorm or out to eat or playing basketball, Freeman and Scott say they rarely talk about track. “We don’t want to be known just as track people,” Freeman said.
When they get out to practice, though, they push each other hard.
“It’s really great because not too many people can say their teammate is also their competitor on the track,” said Scott, who is on the watch list for the 2013 Bowerman Award. “The practice gives us a head start so we know what it’s going to be like at the meets.”
So far it has been a success. At the NCAA indoor championships earlier this year in Arkansas, Scott and Freeman combined to score all of UCF’s 30 points. The team’s fifth-place finish was the best in school history at a national meet. On Wednesday in Eugene, the Knights got six points when junior Jen Clayton finished third in the long jump. They hope to get many more points on Friday and Saturday in the 100, 200 and 4x100 finals.
“I think their drive, they are very driven young women and they want to be great, they want to change history,” UCF coach Caryl Smith Gilbert said of her two star sprinters. “We are on a mission to make UCF something that nobody ever expected.”
And so far?
“They are already succeeding.”