D-I Championships Sidebar: From Olympic Rings To NCAA Gold
June 12, 2010
By Doug Binder
Special to NCAA.com
EUGENE, Ore. – Three 2008 Olympians left their final indelible marks on the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday in front of a crowd of 12,812 at Hayward Field.
Hometown hero Andrew Wheating electrified the standing-room only crowd – the biggest to watch the NCAA meet in 46 years – by winning the 1,500 meters with a pair of Oregon teammates in tow.
Wheating, who won the 800 meters Friday evening, had just 16 ½ hours of rest between the two finals.
He said he had trouble getting to sleep and woke up at 5 a.m. and was unable to stop thinking about his final collegiate race, scheduled for 10:30 a.m.
The race itself worked out perfectly for the Ducks. Wheating won it in 3:47.94 and teammates A.J. Acosta (3.48.01) and Matthew Centrowitz (3:48.08) were second and third.
“They’re two of my best friends,” Wheating said. “It’s the best feeling I’ve felt since the Olympic Trials.”
Virginia Tech’s Queen Quedith Harrison doubled back a day after winning the 400-meter hurdles and won the 100-meter hurdles in 12.67 seconds. Miami’s Ti’erra Brown was second to Harrison for the second straight day.
“To win both events in the hurdles has been my goal since freshman year,” Harrison said. “Words can’t describe how it feels – simply great.
“Once I got to the fourth hurdle, I really felt myself separate from the rest of the runners.”
In the women’s long jump, UTEP’s Blessing Okagbare added her second title of the meet with her second attempt of 22-3 ½. The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the long jump, she won the 100 meters in a wind-aided 10.98 on Friday.
“I had my best season, I’m really happy,” Okagbare said. “Right now, I’m the NCAA champion. Everything came together.”
Arizona State’s Ryan Whiting also won a second title on Saturday, mustering a lifetime best in the shot put on his final throw of the competition: 72 feet, 1 inch.
Officials brought a steel tape to measure the final throw and determined it to be just an inch and a quarter short of John Godina’s all-time collegiate record.
Whiting, who won the discus title on Wednesday, had been gunning for the record all season.
“I was thinking ‘don’t think about the record, just throw your best,’ ” Whiting said. “I got the best throw of my career on my last throw of my career. I’m happy about that.”
In the men’s 5,000 meters, Northern Arizona’s David McNeill was able to outkick 10,000 meter champion Sam Chelanga of Liberty and win the race in 13:44.81. Chelanga was second in 13:45.35 and Georgetown’s Andrew Bumbalough was third in 13:46.17.
That followed a similar script to the NCAA Indoor final in the 5,000, where McNeill beat Chelanga by six-tenths of a second.
“I really wanted to win,” the Australian standout said. “Gritted the teeth and tried to hold on to the finish line. (I was) glad to be the first one across.”
Texas A&M senior Porscha Lucas helped push her team over the top for a second consecutive team title, running the second leg on the winning 4x100 relay team and then cruising to victory in the 200 just 38 minutes later.
Lucas placed second to Okagbare in the 100 meters on Friday.
“This win makes my day even better,” Lucas said. “After all the injuries I suffered, winning the championship means so much to me. Things have really turned around for us.”
In women’s distance races, Penn State’s Bridget Frankek won the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:38.86 and Florida’s Charlotte Browning won the 1,500 by kicking off a slow early pace and reaching the finish in 4:15.84.
Kentucky’s Rondel Sorrillo gathered himself after dropping the baton in the 4x100 relay and won the 200 meters title in 20.36 seconds.