If indoors could be like that for 3 months then it would be a truly exciting extension of track and field. As it is it was a great way to end the indoor season. Both Florida and Oregon had their share of adversity, but in the end both showed the grit that it takes to be a champion.
On the women’s side, Oregon had to do without distance ace Alex Kosinski who withdrew just prior to the meet with a back problem. Kosinski was highly ranked in both the 3000 & 5000, so her withdrawal meant valuable points for the Ducks – and a threat to their team title hopes. Threat averted as Jordan Hasay anchored the Distance Medley to a very close 2nd place finish, then lead a 1, 3, 4 finish in the mile before doubling back to also win the 3000. And what could have been a battle with Texas, LSU and Arkansas, became a blowout by 19 points! Such is the depth and strength of the Oregon women’s team!
The Florida men faced similar adversity when first their SEC hurdle champ, Eddie Lovett, failed to make the final, then sprinter Tony McQuay (rated #1 in the 200 & #2 in the 400) tweaked a hamstring in his 200 semi after leading the qualifying in the 400. Facing losing points in three events it looked like Florida would once again be locked in battle with hometown favorite Texas A&M. Again threat averted as jumper Will Claye stepped up with a second place in the long jump then came back to lead a 1, 2, 5 in the triple jump and sprinter Jeff Demps scored a school record in winning the 60! For good measure Tony McQuay made an appearance in the 400 final to get 2 points and spur the team! Tragedy turned into 52 points, easily ahead of A&M’s 40.
There were also some sterling individual performances to go with the team drama. Among them:
Women’s 60 – Lakaya Brookins (South Carolina) dominated the field and tied Angela Williams Collegiate Record of 7.09. Brookins’ mark was also the best time in the world this year.
Women’s 400 – Jessica Beard (Texas A&M) demolished the field in a world leading 50.79. Beard then came from waaay back in 4th place to lead her 4x4 squad to victory.
Men’s 200 – The semis were blazing as Rakieem Salaam ran a world leading 20.39 in heat 2, then Maurice Mitchell blitzed 20.47 in heat 4. In the two section final each young man ran 20.41 to win his section – Salaam being declared the winner with the reading of the finish to thousandths of a second. 20.401 to 20.403.
Men’s 5000 – Iona’s Leonard Korir outdueled favorite Sam Chalenga (LIberty) to win the event in a meet record 13:26.01. The first TEN men in this race were under the old stadium record previously held by Galen Rupp.
Men’s 4x4 – As is typical, the 4x4 closed out the meet in fine fashion as host Texas A&M claimed a stadium record win in 3:04.24 – also a world leader.
A nice way to close out the indoor season – and perhaps a peak at some of the up and coming stars for the outdoor season. Lakaya Bookins and Jessica Beard certainly marked themselves as sprinters to watch outdoors – especially when it comes down to selecting our team for the World Championships. Likewise keep an eye on Florida’s triple jump trio of Christian Taylor, Will Claye and Omar Craddock – as Taylor and Clay currently rank 1, 2 among Americans. And Jeff Demps, Rakiemm Salaam and Curtis Mitchell could certainly have an impact on the sprints outdoors.
So with that, goodbye to the indoor season. With March half over it is only a matter of time before some serious results start coming in from stadiums all over the world.