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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | July 21, 2022

NCAA Video Vault: Kentucky's Sydney McLaughlin wins NCAA championship after a hail storm

Kentucky's Sydney McLaughlin wins 2018 hurdles title after a hail storm

One-and-done. You hear it all the time in basketball, but what about track and field? Well, Olympian Sydney McLaughlin was a one-and-done superstar at Kentucky in 2018, adding a chapter to her legendary career.

As we go inside the NCAA Video Vault, we'll look at McLaughlin's first and only championship 400-meter hurdles race in collegiate track and field.

The stage

Before Sydney McLaughlin stepped foot on Kentucky's campus, she was a superstar in track and field. In high school, McLaughlin dominated, winning the USATF junior championship and back-to-back Gatorade National Girls Athlete of the Year awards in 2016 and 2017 — the first to ever do so. She graced the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2017, which called her "one of the most dominant high school athletes ever."

More impressively, McLaughlin qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles, becoming one of the youngest American athletes to ever make the track and field team.

With so many accolades in high school, some were surprised McLaughlin decided to go to college at all instead of turning pro out of high school. Yet, attend college she did; by the time of the DI outdoor championships, McLaughlin was having an all-time season at Kentucky.

McLaughlin set the 400-meter hurdles collegiate record in 52.75 seconds at the SEC championships a month prior to the DI outdoor championships. The only record left for the phenom was the championship meet record.

WATCH: The track comeback to end ALL comebacks

The weather

The weather added to the overall stage of Sydney McLaughlin's championship race. Take a look at the weather in Eugene on June 9, 2018 below:

As you look at the above graphs, remember that McLaughlin's race was scheduled for 4:57 p.m. local time. That's a temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit, a mark below the historical average temperature and 15 degrees below the historical high. To put that in perspective, the average temperature on the same day in Lexington, Kentucky was 71.9 degrees; on the same day and time, it was 90 degrees at McLaughlin's home track.

Eugene temperature history on June 9

Luckily for athletes and fans alike, the rain and wind from an hour before died down from what was a hail storm. It was almost a perfect pause so McLaughlin could run her race without precipitation. Yet, the conditions of the track remained suspect, with puddles scattered throughout.

MORE: The race that put Olympic hurdler turned NFL player Devon Allen on the map

The competition

With the collegiate record and world lead in tow, McLaughlin entered the 400 meter hurdle championship final as the overwhelming favorite.

McLaughlin was one of two athletes to run sub-56 seconds entering the semifinals, with LSU's Kymber Payne joining the Wildcats in the club. In the semifinals, McLaughlin reminded everyone of her dominance, clocking 54.15 seconds — 1.92 seconds faster than anyone else to advance.

In addition to her contemporaries, McLaughlin had another competitor in the race, one she couldn't see.

The clock.

McLaughlin had yet to pass the championship record of 53.21 seconds set by Stanford's Kori Carter in 2013. It was the final collegiate record left for the freshman phenom.

Here's the complete field of entries for the final:

Lane Athlete School semifinal time Season's best Time
1 Emma Spagnola Minnesota 57.55 56.21
2 Nikki Stephens Florida 57.77 57.21
3 Symone Black Purdue 56.71 56.16
4 Sydney McLaughlin Kentucky 54.15 52.75
5 Anna Cockrell Southern California 56.07 56.07
6 Kymber Payne LSU 56.58 55.86
7 Ranae McKenzie Kansas State 57.43 56.06
8 Ariel Jones Texas 56.89 56.89

RESULTS: See the complete results for every event in the 2018 championships

The race

The 400 meter hurdles began, amidst the elements, like any other race. No slip-ups due to the slick track or anything of that nature. The women were off to the races.

First curve

Of course, like any other 400-meter long race, the 400-meter hurdles saw each athlete begin with staggered starts. The key for any athlete is to make up the stagger by hitting their hurdles first.

McLaughlin reached her first hurdle in approximately 5.9 seconds. At that point in the race, only Southern California's Anna Cockrell had done the same. The duo repeated such actions, clearing hurdle two approximately 10 seconds into the race.

MORE: The greatest collegiate hurdle race we've ever seen

Backstretch and final curve

By hurdle four, McLaughlin had made up the stagger, reaching her hurdle about 0.3 seconds before Cockrell. McLaughlin carried the lead through the backstretch, entering the final curve 24 seconds into the race. 13 seconds later, McLaughlin cleared the final hurdle of the curve (37 seconds in) and was preparing for the home stretch of the race with a substantial lead.

Home stretch

With the lead and a championship in sight, the rest of the race was smooth sailing for McLaughlin. With puddles all over the track, the most important thing for McLaughlin to do was finish the race.

And finish she did. McLaughlin cleared the final two hurdles with different lead legs, showing off her versatility en route to a 53.96-second victory.

Here are the complete results from the 110-meter hurdles:

Place athlete school time
1 Sydney McLaughlin Kentucky 53.96
2 Anna Cockrell Southern California 55.71
3 Kymber Payne LSU 56.88
4 Symone Black Purdue 57.22
5 Ranae McKenzie Kansas State 57.67
6 Nikki Stephens Florida 57.80
7 Emma Spagnola Minnesota 58.61
8 Ariel Jones Texas 59.92

NCAA T&F: Here's how the outdoor track and field championships work

Breaking down the performance

Early in the race, Sydney McLaughlin established that the 400-meter hurdles was her race to lose. With an early lead, she was competing against herself and the clock in hopes of breaking a record.

While McLaughlin fell short of the meet record of 53.21 seconds, her performance was still remarkable. She finished almost two seconds ahead of second place for the eighth-fastest time in collegiate history.

More importantly, McLaughlin safely and securely picked up 10 team points for the Kentucky Wildcats as the team chased its first women's outdoor title. McLaughlin would later run in the 4x400 meter relay to add points to Kentucky's total, but the Wildcats fell just short, finishing fourth overall at the championship meet.

🏆: Here are the DI track and field teams with most NCAA championships

What did they say

McLaughlin on her approach to her championship race: "Regardless of the times that are out there, I always go into a race with the mindset anything can happen, anybody can win on that day, so it's a matter of each day waking up and realizing I have to focus on myself in order to win the race."

McLaughlin on the weather: "It was pouring right before we went out and the weather was all over the place... But I think to be able to overcome those adversities and come out with the win is good."

McLaughlin on attacking the world record: "There's a lot of stuff to put together and I think that once it comes together, hopefully that world record will go."

Here's what your Twitter feed may have looked like after McLaughlin broke the record:

Watch the race again

Below, you can watch McLaughlin's win in the 400 meter hurdles one more time.

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