NCAA Day Four: Surprises Abound As Longhorns Capture Team Title
June 10, 2023
It is customary at championship gatherings to speculate the outcome of competitions on the track and in the field. But the form chart went out the window on Day Four of the women’s 2023 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, as surprises were frequent in a good number of events.
The Women’s 4x400m relay, photo by How Lao Photography
One event that unfolded as expected on this concluding women’s day of finalists was the opening track event: the 4x400m relay. The talented Texas quartet of the incomparable Julien Alfred, Ezinne Abba, Rhasidat Adeleke, and Kevona Davis unleashed a blistering performance. Completing the one-lap circuit in 41.60 for a dominating win, just a blink off the record-setting 41.55 this foursome posted in Thursday’s earlier round. The 10 points for the Longhorns on this opening event set the tone for the remainder of this championship.
Semi-finals of the Women’s 1,500 meters, NCAA Champs, photo by How Lao Photography
The final of the 1500m run was supposed to feature a clinical performance by NC State superstar Katelyn Tuohy and the race started out that way with the reigning NCAA cross country champion charging to the lead on the opening gun and setting a frisky pace of 64 seconds on the opening lap. While Tuohy’s dominance continued on the laps that followed, her cadence slowed with 300m to go. Tuohy held on to a fragile lead entering the final homestretch but was soon quickly passed by 6 fast-finishing competitors. As the finish line neared, Harvard sophomore Maia Ramsden saw her opportunity and dashed to the line first, clocking a lifetime best of 4:08.60. Heavy favorite Tuohy staggered in 7th. Did you pick Ramsden to win this final? I didn’t think so…
Olivia Markezich, Notre Dame, takes the steeplechase win, photo by How Lao Photography.
The 3000-meter steeplechase was seen as a showdown between Notre Dame junior Olivia Markezich and Cal Baptist’s Greta Karinauskaite. At the opening gun, the petite Karinauskaite, the collegiate leader in this event, dashed to the front and set an ambitious rhythm. Markezich covered that opening move, and the battle was underway. The Notre Dame athlete began to sag midway, and the Cal Baptist leader appeared to have the victory within her grasp. But Markezich, down 10 meters at the bell, found another gear, caught the leader with 300 meters to go, and sailed on for the win in 9:25.03, while Karinauskaite (9:30.85) held on for 2nd.
Ackera Nugent takes the 100m hurdles in 12.25, photo by How Lao Photography.
The 100-meter hurdles were viewed by many as a contest between LSU defending champion Alia Armstrong and Kentucky’s Masai, ranked #3 on the world list. But neither captured the win. Ackera Nugent, #6 on the world list, raced a wind-aided 12.25 to take the crown. The Arkansas junior’s winning time was the fastest collegiate time under all conditions.
In the 100-meter dash, the partisan crowd rose to the occasion, preparing to cheer on the 3 Texas sprinters who had made the final. The trio – who had raced in Longhorn’s electrifying 4×1 victory just 60 minutes earlier – did not disappoint. Julien Alfred led the way, winning the event in a wind-aided 10.72. Kevona Davis (10.98), fresh off her stunning anchor leg in the 4×1, grabbed 5th. And Ezinne Abba (11.07) got up for 7th. Texas was awarded 16 total points as the Longhorns started to pull away from its team title competitors.
The big surprise in the 400 meters was Rhasidat Adeleke! Photo by How Lao Photography
Next up was the much-anticipated 400-meter dash. The event took on special meaning as Arkansas’s Britton Wilson sought to become the first to capture NCAA victories in the 400m and 400 mH. The sought-after dual win was made more difficult by the short 25-minute respite between events and the hot and steamy weather conditions, with temperatures hovering in the mid-90s. Wilson’s quest was foiled when yet another Texas sprinter – Rhasidat Adeleke (49.20) – staged a dramatic homestretch sprint for the win while Wilson finished 2nd in 49.64.
The final of the 800-meter run resulted in another upset when two favorites – Stanford freshman Roisin Willis and Texas Senior Valery Tobias- could not overcome the withering pace set by the ultimate winner LSU’s Michaela Rose. Rose went wire-to-wire in 1:59.83 for the win, while Willis (4th in 2:00.91) and Tobias (6th 2:02.39) were unable to mount a late-race challenge.
In the meantime, the Lady Longhorns continued to pile it on. In the 200-meter dash. Julien Alfred turned in yet another stunning performance, displaying her dominance, taking the win in 21.73. Her teammates Kevona Davis (3rd in 22.02) and Lanae Thomas (5th in 22.36) joined Alfred in capturing 20 big points for Texas.
Parker Valby takes the 5000m photo by How Lao Photography.
In the 5000-meter run, Florida’s Parker Valby, last year’s runner-up in this event, injected a mid-race lift in tempo to separate herself from the 24-athlete field. Valby (15:30.57), 2nd overall and the top individual finisher at last fall’s NCAA Cross Country Championships, had the stamina to turn back late-race attempts by others in the field and sailed on for the win. Utah State’s Everlyn Kemboi (15:39.57) and Utah’s Emily Venters (15:42.40) finished 2nd and 3rd.
Normally, a team title contender without a quartet in the 4x400m relay – the day’s final event – would be either in dire straits or already eliminated for the team title trophy. While Texas had no squad in the final event, the Longhorns had clinched the team title as their 83-point total was out of reach by all others. Florida’s victory in the 4×100, awarding the Gators the facility and meet records) gave the Gators the 10 points they needed to leapfrog over Arkansas for the runner-up position.
Afterward, as his athletes raised the team trophy, an exuberant Edrick Floreal proclaimed his foursome of sprinters to be “the greatest group of female sprinters, bar none.” / Dave Hunter /
wHJ Final: In a surprise, Ball State’s Charity Griffith cleared a personal best of 1.93/6’4” to capture the win in a dramatic high jump final. Texas A&M’s Lamara Distin (1.87/6’1 ½”) to finish in the runner position.
wDT Final: Oregon senior Jorinde Van Kilinken dominated the field to win the discus championship with a meet record mark of 65.55m/215-0. Virginia junior Ashley Anumba was a distant 2nd in 61.13m/200’6”
Jasmoore Moore, photo by How Lao Photography
wTJ Final: Florida junior Jasmine Moore hopped, skipped, and jumped her way to victory in the triple jump with a best mark of 14.78m/48’6”. Texas athlete Ackleia Smith was 2nd with a best mark of 14.54m/47’8½”
Heptathlon Final: Oklahoma freshman Pippi Lotta Enok amassed a two-day point total of 6165 for a margin of victory of just 48 points to capture the heptathlon title. Vanderbilt’s Beatrice Juskeviciute finished second with a two-day total of 6117.