With 2019 just around the corner, let's take a look back at some of the best performances in 2018. Presented chronologically, here are some of the best NCAA Division I moments that we saw this calendar year. Did we miss something? Email Shannon.firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll add it to the list.
Jan 9: Tua Tagovailoa | Alabama | Football
Trailing Georgia by 13 halfway through the national championship football game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban took a chance on his freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Saban subbed out starting sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts for Tagovailoa, and then he watched as the future Heisman runner-up led the Crimson Tide to a 26-23 comeback win over the Bulldogs. The victory marked Alabama’s second national title in three years.
March 11: Kate Hall, Keturah Orji and Tara Davis | Georgia | Long Jump
Kate Hall earned an individual national title in the women's long jump on the first day of the 2018 NCAA Track and Field championship, and her performance, combined with the second and third place finishes of her teammates Keturah Orji and Tara Davis, helped give the Bulldogs a team lead that they would never surrender. Georgia went on to win the women's track and field national title. Teammate Orji earned a second individual title in the women's triple jump.
March 12: Grant Holloway | Florida | Track and Field
Grant Holloway's national championship hardware includes an NCAA team title, an individual title in the men's 60m run and a second-place finish in the men's long jump. His 60m run, which he finished in 7.47, was just shy of his college record of 7.42, but with the finish he became the first collegiate man to record three sub-7.50 times in his career. Holloway's performance at the 2018 men's track and field championships put his name is the record book, and he also made this year's list for the best performances in 2018.
March 16: UMBC | Men’s Basketball
Seeded No. 16 in the 2018 March Madness bracket, the UMBC Retrievers made history when they took down No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers 74–54 in the first round of the tournament. The win marked the first time a UMBC men’s team has earned a win in the tournament and also the first time a 16-seed has beaten a 1-seed in the men’s tournament.
March 17: Ella Eastin | Stanford | Women’s Swimming
Breaking Katie Ledecky’s 400 IM American record and beating the five-time Olympic gold medalist in the process solidified Ella Eastin’s race as one of the top performances of 2018. The Stanford junior outraced her Olympic champion teammate, but that wasn’t all she accomplished during the 2018 Women’s NCAA swimming and diving national championship. She also earned earned titles in the women’s 200 IM, 200 butterfly and 800 freestyle relay and 400 freestyle relay, earning her swimmer of the meet honors.
March 18: Katie Ledecky | Stanford | Women’s Swimming
The Stanford star joined Eastin on the national championship 400 and 800 freestyle relays, and she also dominated the field with individual victories in the 500 and 1,650 freestyle. Though the distance phenom lost to her teammate in the 400 IM, she showed off her speed in the two longer freestyle events, winning both by over eight seconds. Ledecky’s success at Stanford has helped the Cardinal win back-to-back swimming national championships.
March 18: Clarkson | Women's hockey
The Clarkson women's hockey team continued its dominance into 2018, winning a second straight NCAA title behind a goal from Elizabeth Giguere in overtime. The Frozen Four Championship marked the third tournament game that Clarkson played into overtime, but the Knights persevered They ended the season with the winningest record in program history, 36-4-1, and notched a conference title as well during the course of their 2018 campaign.
March 18: Kyle Snyder | Ohio State | Wrestling
Ohio State senior captain Kyle Snyder earned his third individual NCAA title at the 2018 national championship when he took down Michigan senior Adam Coon in the heavyweight division. Snyder, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, finished his career with four All-American title, three Big-10 Championships and a 75-5 record. He also joined senior teammates Nathan Tomasello and Bo Jordan as part of the only trio in Ohio State wrestling history to win a fourth All-American honor in the same year.
March 18: Bo Nickal | Penn State | Wrestling
With the NCAA wrestling national team title on the line, Penn State’s junior Bo Nickal found himself in a tight position early in the 184-pound championship against second-seeded Myles Martin of Ohio State. Martin earned a takedown, generating a roar of approval from the hometown crowd, but Nickal scrambled his way out of the situation, rolled Martin to his back, notched the pin and sealed the championship for the Nittany Lions. The win marked his second consecutive individual national title and the third consecutive team title in four years for Penn State. Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf and Vincenzo Joseph also won individual titles in 2018.
March 22: Caeleb Dressel | Florida | Swimming
Florida superstar and Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel set an NCAA record with his 17.81 50 freestyle at the 2018 NCAA championship. He became the first swimmer in history to break the 18-second barrier in the event, earning an individual title in the event. Before the end of the meet, Dressel added two more individual titles in the 100 free and 100 fly to his resume. Dressel left a legacy at Florida that will be hard to match, and he will undoubtedly be an athlete to watch as the 2020 Olympics near.
Men’s 50-Yard Freestyle Record:— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 23, 2018
1) Caeleb Dressel 17.63
2) Caeleb Dressel 17.81
3) Caeleb Dressel 18.11
4) Caeleb Dressel 18.20
5) Caeleb Dressel 18.23
6) Caeleb Dressel 18.23
7) Caeleb Dressel 18.23
8) Caeleb Dressel 18.24@caelebdressel is in a league of his own. pic.twitter.com/AfeQXJ52jj
March 24: Loyola Chicago | Men’s basketball
The Loyola Ramblers made headlines all throughout the NCAA tournament, advancing the Final Four as a No. 11 seed after taking down No. 6 Miami, No. 3 Tennessee and No. 9 Kansas State. The team’s final win of the tournament came on March 24 when they beat Kansas State 78-62 to become the lowest-seeded team to make the Final Four in men’s basketball history.
April 1: Arike Ogunbowale | Notre Dame | Women’s Basketball
Arike Ogunbowale became the hero for Notre Dame in the 2018 women’s Final Four. The junior guard hit a buzzer-beater against No. 1 Connecticut to send her team to the finals. She then hit an almost identical shot the next day to help the Irish put away Mississippi State for the national title. Ogunbowale’s performance helped her earn the Final Four Most Outstanding Player and ACC Player of the Year honors.
April 4: Austin Katz | Texas | Men's Swimming
As a freshman, Austin Katz proved to be a difference-maker for the Longhorns as he captured a national title in the men's 200 backstroke, becoming the first Longhorn to win the event since Olympic gold medalist Aaron Perisol in 2003. His win gave Texas crucial team points in the battle with California, and Katz also helped his head coach, Eddie Reese, end his 40th year with the team on a winning note. Teammate John Shebat finished just behind Katz in second while Jonathan Roberts took fifth. Roberts, Brett Ringgold and Olympic gold medalist teammate Joseph Schooling finished their careers as four-time team NCAA championship with the Longhorns; Katz will look to leave this same legacy behind over the next three years of his career.
April 22: Christine Peng-Peng Lee | UCLA | Women’s Gymnastics
UCLA sixth-year senior Christine Peng-Peng Lee could not have ended her career any more perfectly than she did at the 2018 women’s gymnastics NCAA championships. After winning the individual title on the balance beam, Peng-Peng Lee stepped up for her final performance as a Bruin with the team national title on the line. UCLA sat just behind defending champions Oklahoma before before the last routine, and Peng-Peng Lee needed a 9.975 to move her team into the top spot. She delivered. The Pac-12 scholar-athlete of the year brought UCLA its seventh team title and ended her career at top in one of the most suspenseful finishes in women’s gymnastics history.
May 24: Arizona | Women's golf
A national championship seemed unlikely for the Wildcats heading into the women's golf national championship, and even in the final holes against Alabama, Arizona still looked like the underdog. Yet behind a series of clutch shots and a never-ending team belief, Arizona clinched the women's golf title on the 19th hole to win the program's first women's golf title since 2000. Haley Moore notched a birdie on extra hole after Alabama's Lakareber Abe won the 18th hole against Moore to move the game to bonus holes. Arizona's win marked the fourth consecutive time a Pac-12 team has won the women's golf title.
June 5: Jessie Warren | Florida State | Softball
Named the Women's College World Series Most Outstanding Player, Jessie Warren's role in Florida State's title run stands out as one of the best series of performances this year. The senior is now considered to be one of the best softball players to ever graduate from Florida State, as she left her program with its first ever national championship and tied a Women's College World Series record with 13 hits during her NCAA tournament games. The last home run of her career came in the second series game against Washington, and she helped the Seminoles surpass the Huskies 8-3 in the final game of the series.
September 29: Kyler Murray | Oklahoma | Football
Kyler Murray's long list of accolades in 2018 ultimately earned him the Heisman Trophy, and the September 29th game against Baylor proved that Murray belonged in that class of elite athletes. The Oklahoma junior scored a record-high seven touchdowns against the Bears and completed 17 of his 21 passes for 432 yards. The Sooners dominated Baylor, winning 66-33, and the game set Murray up for a season that will continue against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Orange Bowl on January 29.
November 19: Morgan McDonald | Wisconsin| Men’s Cross Country
Running on his home course, Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald capped off his senior cross country season with perfection. McDonald entered the race as a favorite and finished in front with a time of 29:08.3. The victory marks his first individual national title and gave him a third All-American honor.
November 19: Northern Arizona | Men's Cross Country
The Northern Arizona men's cross country team won their school's first ever national championship in any sport when captured the NCAA title in 2016, and since then, the Lumberjacks have added two more titles to their name. This year, NAU top finisher Tyler Day crossed the line sixth to pace his team, followed by Max Baxter in 15th, Luis Grijalva in 23rd, Blaise Ferro in 26th, and Peter Lomong in 29th. Geordie Beamish also Ryan Raff also raced as members of the national championship team. With the three-peat, the Lumberjacks became the first team since Arkansas in 1998, 1999 and 2000 to win three national championships.
November 19: Colorado | Women’s Cross Country
The greatest highlight in the history of all cross country highlights. #ncaaxc— FloTrack (@FloTrack) December 4, 2018
Colorado won it all at the 2018 cross country championship, winning the individual title behind a successful performance from Dani Jones and winning the team title with the group of Jones, Makena Morley, Tabor Scholl, Sage Hurta, Tayler Tuttle, Val Constien, Holly Bent. The Buffalos had not won the title since 2004 prior to their 2018 win, and this title marked the third ever in Colorado women’s cross country history.
December 2: Florida State | Women’s Soccer
The Seminoles upset the 21-time NCAA champion Tar Heels in the ACC Championship 3-2, and then went on to repeat their success in the NCAA tournament. The 2018 ACC Tournament MVP Dallas Dorosy scored two goals in the conference win and notched the game-winning goal at the NCAA finals. Nicknamed Miss November by her coach Mark Krikorian for her clutch tournament performances, Dorsoy and the Seminoles found a way to win in their last two meetings with North Carolina, and their performances earned them a conference and national title.
December 9: Dayne St. Clair | Maryland | Men's soccer
We have the best fans in the NATION!— Maryland Men’s Soccer 🐢 (@MarylandMSoccer) December 11, 2018
THIS IS FOR YOU!! pic.twitter.com/z4I5Z893zi
Dayne ended his senior season as a national champion, but his accomplishments along the way also helped him earned a nod as one of the best performers of 2018. The Maryland redshirt junior shutout Akron in the national championship game on December 8, and he also shut out Indiana, Kentucky and N.C. State during his team’s tournament run.