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Friday, 23 June 2017 21:57

2017 NCAA Division 1 T&F Champs — Field Events Featured

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Long Jump: Gators Leap to History

By RJ Chavez


The last time two teammates finished one-two in the long jump event at the NCAA Track and Field Championships was in 1987.


Thirty years later, at the 2017 NCAA Track and Field Championships on Wednesday at Hayward Field, the dynamic duo from the University of Florida, KeAndre Bates and Grant Holloway, rewrote the history books.


“It’s not about how you start, but how you finish.” said Holloway. “And KeAndre came out with a wonderful jump on his last one.” 


In the last round of the long jump final, Bates leaped for what would end up being a winning jump of 26 feet, 5 inches. Two inches behind Bates was Holloway.


“A loss is a loss in my book,” said Holloway. “But best for it to be against another Gator.”


 Holloway’s second-place finish came during his first-round attempt, when he achieved a distance of 26-3, and that finished earned the Gator teammates first- and second-place finishes. 


“I’m happy that me and Grant got do it and that I got to be a part of it,” said Bates. “Because I’ve been waiting for it.”


Last year Bates finished third at the NCAA outdoor championships. And after not performing well on his first attempt in the final this year, he knew he had to focus if he wanted a better outcome than last year.


“In that last round, I came together,” said Bates. “I knew what I needed to do and I just kept that on my mind. I kept that one thought that I need to hit my speed, be aggressive with my steps, keep my chest and board knees up, and then take off.”


For Bates, he didn’t need to focus up until the last attempt of the final, because all his distances before that either qualified him for the final or at worst would get him a second-place medal. 


But his teammate Holloway however had two fouls in his first two attempts of the first round of the long jump. If it wasn’t for his third attempt of 26-3, then history for the two Gator jumpers would’ve never been made. 


Although the individual success between the two athletes is “humbling,” as Holloway described it, there is something else at stake. The two jumpers scored 18 team points for the Gators, who are battling with Texas A&M and Virginia in the team competition.


“The meet isn’t over,” Holloway said, “and the goal is a national championship.”




Hammer Throw

By Ariel Sax


Despite a recent back injury, Cornell’s Rudy Winkler won the NCAA men’s hammer championship with a distance of 243 feet, 2 inches Wednesday at Hayward Field.

“This was the first meet where I felt really comfortable and I was able to throw the way I wanted to throw,” said Winkler.


He reached his highest distance with his third throw. However, he wasn’t that comfortable with his form and physical ability until this championship. He believes that now he is on the path to throwing further and further.


The last time Winkler competed at Hayward Field, he won the 2016 Olympic trials with a hurl of 251-10, which is his personal best. He said his confidence was raised coming into the NCAA because he felt the same way that he did when going into the trials.


This week, he was consistently throwing 60 to 70 meters (196 feet to just under 230 feet) in practice, which brought more comfort and confidence.


The outcome was Winkler’s best throw of the season; however, it is still 7 feet, 9 inches away from his personal best.


Following in second with a new personal record of 241-8 was Alex Young from Southeastern Louisiana University. He threw this new personal record on his last throw of the event, moving from sixth to second place.


Young was not sure if he would even make it into the final until he threw 231-9 on his third throw.


“It was a rollercoaster for sure – I had one throw to make it into the finals,” said Young.


This was Young’s last collegiate meet, and in honor of it, he wore special western styled rodeo socks that he called his “Wild West socks.”


“That was my motto going in -- this was my last rodeo to give it what I got, and I came out with a PR,” said Young. “I’m happy.”


Both Young and Winkler will continue to train for the U.S. nationals that will be held in Sacramento this year.




Women’s Shot Put

By Abigail Winn


Kent State University senior Danniel Thomas was not fazed by the women she was competing with for the NCAA shot put title, including two-time NCAA outdoor champion and 2016 Olympian Raven Saunders.


“I just go out there and try to be in my own zone,” said Thomas, who competed in the Rio Olympics for her native Jamaica.  “I didn’t really let the fact that she was in the competition get in my head. If I do what I’m supposed to do, I will do very well.”


She did more than well. Thomas won the title with her final throw of 62 feet, 10 inches, over four feet further than second-place Louisville senior Emmonnie Henderson, who threw 58-9 1/2. USC post-grad and former Oregon Duck Brittany Mann took third with 57-4 3/4.


Saunders, the favorite, finished fourth. Her best throw was her first, 57-3 3/4, and she fouled on four of her six throws.


“They all are amazing competition,” Mann said. “We have a very special group of throwers around us.”

Thomas said she knew she was taking a risk when she left Jamaica to come to the United States for sports, but ultimately it was the best decision. “I told Coach when I was leaving, ‘It doesn’t matter where I go. I’m a hard worker and it’s gonna happen.’”


Thursday’s win made it all worth it.


“It has validated everything,” she said. “I had a terrible two weeks of practice, so this is it. It was all the background training, all the early season training, that has finally paid off.”


Looking ahead to the world championships this summer, Thomas hopes that her success in the American collegiate program inspires kids in her home country looking for similar success.


“It doesn’t matter what school you go to,” she said. “If you do leave and take that risk, it can happen.”




Bryan reaches new season record in high jump 

By Becky Hoag


By the time the bar in the men’s high jump at the NCAA championship reached 7 feet, 3 inches, the 23 competitors had been reduced to just two: Florida junior Christoff Bryan and Texas Tech junior Trey Culver. 


Culver, a two-time indoor NCAA champion and three-time USTFCCCA All-American, was the statistical favorite of the two.


Bryan was determined to improve his season best, succeeding when he cleared 7-3 after two tries. Culver cleared it, but it took him three. And when neither cleared 7-4 1/4, Bryan won.


“I got pretty nervous, I’m not going to lie, but I knew once I had just a couple misses, that was all that mattered,” Bryan said. “I knew me and someone would jump the same height; I just focused on clearing bars early.”


Bryan and Culver are not new to each other. Bryan beat Culver during the NCAA West Region Championships in May. During the indoor regional, Culver won with his personal record jump 7-5 inches. (Bryan’s personal record is 7-4 1/2 from the 2016 Ward Haylett Invitational.)


“This is really what I expected, especially from Trey,” Bryan said. “I mean, he’s the two-time indoor champion, so I knew it was going to be a tough one.”


Bryan felt it was an especially rough competition for him because he usually likes to start off strong and then watch the competition. 


“Before I liked to chase, but now I like setting the pressure on everyone else,” Bryan said.


But ultimately Bryan was happy because he has been experiencing patella tendonitis since freshman year. While he has had procedures done on his knee in the past, he knows he really needs surgery. 


“But I’m not trying to do that,” Bryan said. “I’m trying to rest for the rest of the season; I’m trying to heal up and just come back stronger next year.”


Culver expected the field to reach slightly higher heights, but with weather being 60 degrees and rainy, he knew that it was going to be lower. But both Culver and Bryan said the same thing: those who did well today knew what to expect and put “mind over matter.”


“You’ve just got to get over it,” Culver said. “Embrace the rain, embrace the cold and go at it. So I’m just thankful to God for being out here and being able to compete against some great guys, great competitors.”


While Bryan had beaten Culver in the past, he really wanted to take the win for this one.


“This is the one I really wanted,” Bryan said. “This was my goal of college, so dream come true.”

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