David Hunter provided us with this piece on the final day of the NCAA Championships, where the battle for the team titles took some twists and turns.
2013 NCAA Div I Outdoor Track & Field Championships
Kissing Your Sister In Eugene
Improbable Relay Outcome Forces Gator/Aggie Tie
June 8, 2013
Just when you think you have seen everything in track & field, you witness something that is hard to fathom.
As the 2013 NCAA outdoor track & field championships were winding down and only the men’s 4 x 400 relay remained, Texas A&M – sitting on a nearly-insurmountable 9 point lead over Florida – appeared to have a stranglehold on the men’s first place team trophy. After all, the Aggies’ impressive quartet lined up for the final with the fastest semi-final qualifying time and needed only to finish no lower than 7th to clinch the crown.
Out strong as expected, A&M leadoff runner Ricky Babineaux was preparing to hand off to teammate Aldrich Bailey when disaster struck. The Aggie baton – flicked by flailing limbs – was soon on the track surface. Bye, bye Miss American Pie. The Aggies got up to dance, but they never got the chance…
The A&M squad – unbelieving and hopelessly mired to last place – fought back gamely with no real hope to avoid a last place finish. But wait! Disaster could still be avoided if the Florida foursome would finish anywhere other than first. But, alas, the perfect storm could not be avoided. The Gators weren’t about to allow this Texas A&M gift to slip through their fingers. Florida frosh Arman Hall ran a superb anchor leg to ensure the Florida relay win – and team title tie with the Aggies at 53 points – as he stopped the clock at 3:01.34. The Gator’s winning time set a new collegiate leading mark, unseating – you guessed it – Texas A&M. Stunned in the mixed zone, Texas A&M anchor Deon Lendore was at a loss to explain what happened. “Coming into the final event, we had the lead in points. All we had to do was to finish anything but last and we’d have gotten the title,” Lendore explained. “I don’t know what happened to my teammate. It seems like he wasn’t looking where he was going and wasn’t looking what he was doing. He maybe got mixed up. And when it was time to hand-off, he dropped the stick.”
In the women’s team race, the Oregon Lady Ducks – down 15 points to Kansas as the day began – would require few errors and a heaping serving of Hayward Magic if the unprecedented Triple Crown was going to happen. It was not to be. In the day’s opening 4 x 100 relay, the Lady Ducks got off to a fabulous start, but a bobbled third exchange destroyed all race momentum, ruled out an upset win, and relegated the Oregon quartet to 4th place. That disappointment – followed by no points in the 1500 – sealed Oregon’s doom. The Jayhawks – with points from all corners – breezed to the team title with a 16 point winning margin.
In the women’s 100H, Clemson’s Brianna Rollins showed she is ready for the big time. Coming off her collegiate-leading performance in the semi, the junior rocketed out of the blocks and never let up. Snapping over the hurdles, she captured a most convincing win in the world-leading wind-legal time of 12.39. Gail Dever’s American record of 12.33 is the only faster time ever run on American soil. In the men’s 110H, Texas A&M junior Wayne posted a windy winning time of 13.14 to nip pre-race favorite Eddie Lovett of Florida.
Lawi Lalang – a cool performer unfazed by the warmer temperatures – took it to the field in the 5000. It was a successful strategy. The Arizona junior dished out a steady diet of punishing laps – beginning in the mid-60’s and chipped it down from there – as he defied his foes to keep pace. They couldn’t. Unthreatened over the final 3 laps, Lalang glided over the line in 13:35.19 to complete his 10,000/5,000 double. Afterwards, the upbeat champion offered insight on his pre-race strategy. “Just yesterday I was talking to my coach and he said, ‘take this race out hard so you can kill hope fast,'” explained Lalang. “I wasn’t worried about going into a kick-ass race. I just wanted it to be a perfect pace.”
Mac Fleet uncorked a scintillating final lap of 52.2 seconds to capture the men’s 1500 title – in 3:50.25. The Duck’s impressive kick might have rendered unnecessary a dose of Hayward Magic – but he got it anyway. Exhorted on by the Hayward faithful, Fleet was fleet as his unmatched surge up the final straight could not be matched by such notables as sub-4:00 milers Robby Creese [6th in 3:51.21] and defending champion Andrew Bayer [8th in 3:51.39]. A traffic jam coming off the Bowerman curve produced two casualties. An apparent heel clip by Patrick McGregor of Texas took him down – as well as Oklahoma’s Riley Masters. At the finish line, officials interceded to prevent a possible post-race throw-down as the two – highly animated and pointing fingers – were quickly escorted off the track.
The Oregon women knew their vanishing hopes to capture the unprecedented triple crown hinged upon multiple scorers in the 1500. It didn’t happen. Becca Friday – quickly out of contention – and Anne Kesselring – mysteriously felled 15 meters from the finish line – finished 11th and 12th for zero points. Oklahoma State’s Natalja Piliusina [4:13.25] overpowered Florida’s Cory McGee [4:13.94] over the final 200 for the title.
It was another day at the office for Olympian Emma Coburn as she easily captured another NCAA title in the 3000 meter steeplechase. Out front early and hurdling cleanly, Coburn turned in a workmanlike performance [9:35.38] to easily better FSU’s Colleen Quigley [9:38.23] and Weber State’s Amber Henry [9:43.39].
Kimberlyn Duncan rebounded from her defeat in the 100 to capture the 200 in a wind-aided 22.04 – making her the fastest all-time collegian under all conditions over the furlong. Aggie sophomore Kamaria Brown was second in 22.21. On the men’s side, A&M’s Ameer Webb also vindicated a short dash setback by winning the longer sprint in 20.10. Mississippi’s Isiah Young got up for second in 20.17.
In the women’s 4 x 100 relay, prohibitive favorite Texas A&M did what they have done all season – win impressively. The Aggie’s first place time of 42.68 was nearly a half second ahead of USF [43.36]. In the men’s 4 x 1, a perfectly-timed lean by Florida’s Dedric Dukes allowed the Gators [38.53] to nip Alabama by .01 seconds.
The final day produced no upset winners in the field events as the Aggies’ Sam Humphreys [77.95m / 255’9″] won the javelin, Gator Omar Craddock [16.92m 55’6 1/4″] captured the triple jump, and Oklahoma’s Tia Brooks [18.91m / 62′ 1/2″] snagged the shot put crown by over three feet.
In the final field event of the meet – the women’s high jump – Brigetta Barrett [1.95m / 6’4 3/4″] easily captured the title. Later in the mixed zone, the Olympic silver medalist was in a relaxed and fun-loving mood. When asked if the competition or her Friday pre-meet performance of the National Anthem made her more nervous, the Arizona senior didn’t hesitate. “Oh, the National Anthem,” smiled Barrett who has sung before the Millrose Games and other sporting events. “I don’t know why. But the song is very hard to sing.” Asked whether she would go out later with the media to sing Karaoke, she unhesitatingly retorted, “Yeah! I’m down. You down?” But a hearty laugh was followed by a serious moment. When asked about her future goals, Barrett – measuring
her words carefully – said, “The goal is to become the best high jumper the world has ever seen.” Big dreams can’t come true unless you first have big dreams. Brigetta Barrett has them.