College track & field recap: Saunders breaks own record in the shot put
COLLEGE STATION -- A collegiate record in the women’s shot put and a pair of historic wins in the women’s pentathlon and the men’s 5000 meters highlighted the first day of the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships at Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Stadium.
Oregon leads the men’s team scoring race after five events with 17 points, one ahead of Texas A&M. Georgia’s women have a commanding lead with 41 points after six events, and Alabama is second with 16.
On the final throw of the competition, Raven Saunders of Mississippi shattered her own collegiate record in the shot put with a throw of 19.56m/64-2.25, the farthest throw in the world this year and the fourth-farthest ever by an American. Saunders, who won the NCAA outdoor title last year, picked up her second career NCAA indoor gold, having also won as a freshman at Southern Illinois.
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Georgia’s female student-athlete Kendell Williams became the first athlete to win the same event at four straight NCAA Indoor Championships, just missing her collegiate record in the pentathlon with a score of 4,682 points. Williams set a collegiate pentathlon record in the 60-meter hurdles to open the competition, clocking 8.03 seconds as she tallied the third-highest score in collegiate history. Taliyah Brooks of Arkansas was within nine points of Williams before the 800m, and finished second with a lifetime-best 4,580 points after setting personal records in three of the five events.
Career NCAA title No. 16 for Oregon’s Edward Cheserek came on the strength of a withering 53.89 kick over the final two laps in the men’s 5000m, carrying him to his third indoor gold at the distance in 13:41.20. Content to run in the back half of the pack for the first 1K, Cheserek tucked into fourth over the next 2K. By 4K he had taken over second and he moved to the front for good at 4600m. Marc Scott of Tulsa closed very quickly to take second in 13:43.83.
Leaving her best for last, Sha’Keela Saunders of Kentucky exploded to a 6.90m/22-7.75 on her final attempt in the long jump to move up one place from last year and take gold with the third-farthest indoor jump ever by a collegian, and the seventh best by an American. Saunders had taken the lead in round two with a 6.70m/21-11.75 before defending champion Quanesha Burks of Alabama passed her in the fifth round with a leap of 6.72m/22-0.75.
NCAA cross country champion Karissa Schweizer of Missouri bided her time with the lead pack in the 5000m until there were three laps remaining, letting Anna Rohrer of Notre Dame make the pace through 3000m in 9:12.91. Schweizer moved into the lead at 4400m and used a 65.65 closing 400m to win in 15:19.14, more than eight seconds ahead of silver medalist Erin Finn of Michigan. Schweizer’s time moved her to No. 5 on the collegiate all-time list.
After the first day of the heptathlon, Kentucky’s Tim Duckworth had an 86-point lead over Lindon Victor of Texas A&M. Duckworth had the fastest time in the 60m and broke the collegiate heptathlon record in the long jump before Devon Williams of Georgia broke it again, and Duckworth sailed over 2.16m/7-1 in the high jump to end up with 3.594 points. Victor’s top mark came in the shot put, where he broke the meet record with a throw of 16.55m/54-3.75.
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Picking up 18 team points, Georgia took the top two places in the women’s high jump, with Madeline Fagan winning with a leap of 1.93m/6-4 and teammate Tatiana Gusin getting the silver at 1.90m/6-2.75. Fagan’s jump was a lifetime best and the second highest by an American woman this year.
Mostafa Hassan of Colorado State dominated the men’s shot put, capping an impressive series with his best effort of the day, a 21.27m/69-9.5 that was more than four feet better than the runner-up. Hassan is the Rams’ second ever men’s indoor champion.
Anchor leg Dani Jones made up three seconds on Oregon and pulled Colorado up from eighth place at the final exchange to outsprint Stanford down the final straight and win the women’s distance medley relay by .02 seconds in 11:00.34. Jones clocked 4:31.71 for her 1600m segment and just managed to edge past the Cardinal’s Elise Cranny at the line. It was the first NCAA DMR win ever for the Colorado women.
Mississippi lived up to its pre-race favorite status in the men’s distance medley relay as Robert Domanic had the fastest 1600 anchor leg at 3:57.81 to give the Rebels the win in 9:31.32. Sean Tobin handed off to Domanic just behind Indiana after the 800m leg to put Domanic in position for the win, and the junior dashed away from quick-closing Virginia Tech and Georgetown, who had a blanket finish with Oregon for the next three places.
Freshman Chris Nilsen gave South Dakota its first-ever NCAA Division I track and field individual title, winning the pole vault with his 5.65m/18-6.5 clearance on his third attempt. Nilsen took three attempts at what would have been a world under-20 record of 5.81m/19-0.75.
With three of his six attempts good enough to win, KeAndre Bates of Florida captured gold in the men’s long jump, spanning 8.04m/26-4.5 in round two.