USC women clinch NCAA Outdoor Track & Field team title with epic finish in 4x400m relay
EUGENE — “You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to get it done.”
That’s what USC head coach Caryl Smith Gilbert said she told her team ahead of the final day of the NCAA Track & Field Championships. The Trojans bounced in and out contention for the team title and, in true dramatic track & field fashion, the title came down to the final event of the day: the 4x400-meter relay.
Georgia was up nine points on second-place USC. Georgia didn’t have a team in the 4x400m. USC did. First place earns your team 10 points. The Trojans needed to win to win the title.
Spoiler alert (unless you saw the photo at the top): They did.
Good thing Smith Gilbert reminded her team that they didn’t need perfect execution, because an imperfect handoff to the fourth and final leg of the 4x400m had the potential to derail USC’s national title dreams. Anchor leg (and senior) Kendall Ellis kept her cool, grabbed the stick, and ran down Purdue in epic fashion to earn her team the national title. The Trojans finished seven-hundredths of a second in front of the Boilermakers in a season-best 3 minutes, 27.06 seconds.
When did Ellis know she had secured the win? “As soon as the baton was in my hand,” the senior said.
Okay, now take a deep breath because believe it or not, there was a ton more exciting action that happened today.
The Cardinal showed up this Championship season. Stanford wrapped the NCAA Championships in third place with 51 points — that’s just two points behind first place USC. You can thank a whole lot of PRs in Eugene for that.
A pair of them came today from Elise Cranny and Christina Aragon. They finished the blazing fast 1500m in third (4:09.49) and fourth (4:09.59), respectively, notching new career bests and quite a few points for the Card.
Valarie Allman accounted for a healthy number of points herself with a third-place finish in the discus (59.20 meters / 194 feet - 3 inches). Vanessa Fraser scored big in the 5000m, finishing fourth in 15:43.77, along with Olivia Baker finishing fifth in the 800m in 2:06.18.
Maggie Ewen was the only Arizona State competitor on the track or field Saturday, but still earned the Sun Devils 10 points and herself yet another individual national title. Her 60.48m (198 - 5) throw came on her last attempt after a competition filled with rain and hail. Can you say clutch?
Sophomore Jessica Hull set a PR of 4:08.75 in the 1500m to become the national champion in the event. Fellow distance Duck and Pac-12 Champion Sabrina Southerland finished seventh in the 800m with a 2:06.99.
The Oregon relay teams saw themselves a day after the 4x100m finished second (43.06) and the 4x400m finished third (3:28.36). Lead leg of the 4x100m team was Alaysha Johnson, who placed seventh in the 100m hurdles in 13.22 less than an hour after the relay. Anchor leg Ariana Washington placed eighth in the 100m following the relay in 11.50.
Briyahna Desrosiers ended the season with a sixth-place 400m finish in 52.10. Teammate Makenzie Dunmore who was in the same event went down with an apparent injury just a few meters before the finish line. Jumper Chaquinn Cook placed 10th in the triple jump with a 13.21m (43-4 1/4) best effort.
A pair of fourth-place finishes highlighted the day’s action for the Bruins. Kendall Gustafson completed the heptathlon in the aforementioned place with 5,800 points. Jessie Maduka PR-ed her way to All-American status in the triple jump with a 13.65m (44-9 1/2) best attempt.
Alyssa Wilson fouled out of the discus throw.
The two longest events of the day fittingly had a Buff presence. Val Constien earned All-American status in the 3,000m steeplechase after her 9:48.40 run that placed her fifth. Erin Clark was lucky number 13 in the 5,000m, running 15:51.80.
Amy-Eloise Neale completed her Washington career as an All-American, finishing fifth in the 5,000m (15:44.41).
Pac-12 Champion Alissa Brooks-Johnson wrapped her career as a Coug with a sixth place finish in the heptathlon, scoring 5,789 points.
Grayson Murphy added another sub-9:50 performance to her steeplechase career, finishing sixth in 9:48.80.
Senior Ashley Anderson finished her time as a Golden Bear placing 21st in the triple jump with a 12.86m (42-2 1/4) best attempt.
Okay, now It’s time for full results from the Trojans. The 4x100m team kicked things off placing third with a 43.11 mark. Twanisha Terry and Deanna Hill followed that up with third (11.39) and seventh (11.45) place finishes in the 100m, respectively. Kendall Ellis warmed up her clutch 4x400m legs by placing second in the open 400m in 50.19. Fellow senior and second leg of that 4x400m team Anna Cockrell ran a season-best 55.71 in the 400m hurdles, earning her second place.
The 200m final saw two Trojans partake in the action. Anglerne Annelus stunned herself and the crowd by running away with the win, recording a 22.76 second-half lap. Deanna Hill finished seventh in the event, running 23.53.
Lyndsey Lopes wrapped her heptathlon action in 16th place with 5,504 points over the seven events.
You already know about the 4x400m, but it's worth mentioning again again: Season-best 3:27.06. Clinched the NCAA title. Two of its legs were run by seniors. (Happy) tears ensued.
Now we exhale and add yet another NCAA title to the overall count for the Pac-12 (it’s at 512 now, by the way).