2015 NCAA Track & Field Champs, Eugene, Oregon
By Roy Stevenson
Day Two: Women’s Semi-Finals, Thursday, June 10
Hot, 81 degrees, dry, sunny
Restricting the Thursday schedule to women’s only semi-finals (with a few women’s field event finals tossed in for good measure) seemed to have no impact on the competitors. And it certainly did not affect attendees, as 10,015 people turned up at Hayward Field for Day Two of the NCAA Division I Champs.
The two women’s 1500M semis were remarkably in tune with each other, with both winners clocking 4:16. Rhianwedd Price (Miss State) won heat 2 in 4:16.01 from team mate Marta Freitas in 4:17.01. Defending champion, Shelby Houlihan (Arizona State) took heat 1 in 4:16.87 from Sara Sutherland (Colorado) in 4:16.94.
With 12 metric milers between 4:16 and 4:19, it’s hard to predict who will prevail in Saturday’s final, but the four mentioned above look likely candidates for medals.
Ten steeplechasers finished between 9:53.93 and 10 minutes, setting up a promising final for Saturday. Leah O’Connor (Michigan State) took heat 1 in 9:55.58, with Emily Ritter (Rider) second on 9:55.89. Heat 2 was won by Erin Teschuk (North Dakota State) in 9:53.93 from Courtney Frerichs (UMKC) in 9:54.07. With times for these two semis so close, and both groups running spirited races, it’s hard to predict who is the favorite for Saturday’s final.
The time spread for the 100M semis was from 10.96 to 11.17. Morolake Akinosun (Texas) took heat 2 in the day’s fastest time of 10.96, with a wind of +3.0 at her back. Dezerea Bryant (Kentucky) placed second in 10.99, with the same wind aid.
Heat 1 was won by Oregon’s Jenna Prandini, who will also be trying to win the LJ and 200m, and the relay. Alea Hobbs (LSU) took second in this heat in 11.13 to also qualify for the final. If we factor out the fastest wind aid times by Akinosun and Bryant, the times look remarkably close, making this a hard race to call.
Hanna Green (Virginia Tech) looked strong as she took Heat 1 of the 800M in 2:03.35 from Claudia Saunders (Stanford) who ran 2:03.38. Chrishuna Williams (Arkansas) was the only other runner under 2:04, as she won Heat 3 in 2:03.91. Three others qualified with times under 2:04. The leading three all looked strong, and our prediction is for these three to bring home medals.
As usual at NCAA’s, the 400M final is shaping up to be super competitive with 6 runners clocking under 52.0. The winners of each heat took the three fastest times. Kendall Baisden (Texas) took heat 1 in 51.53; Shakima Wimbley took the heat 2 honors in 51.68; and 2012 and 2013 NCAA champion Ashley Spencer (Texas) won heat 3 in 51.72. Either of these three could win the final.
The 10,000M was the usual battle of attrition as Megan Curham (Princeton), defending champion Emma Bates (Boise State), Chelsea Blaase (Tennessee), and Molly Seidel (Notre Dame) led the field at various stages. The field was still bunched up over 15 meters at half way, reached in 16:49.61.
Then, with 4 laps to go, Seidel showed her superior work ethic in dramatic form. Rocketing off in a dead sprint that tore the field apart in one lap, she opened up a 50-meter gap on Dominique Scott (Arkansas) and Emily Stites (William & Mary). Seidel bravely held on for the next two laps.
But, the question was, could she maintain her diminishing lead over the bell lap? In a gutsy display, Seidel held on to the finish, winning by 7 seconds from Scott and Stites, with Oregon’s Grabill and Neer 4th and 5th. Bates finished 10th. Seidel is well worth watching and we predict that she will soon be making team USA. This young runner is not afraid of anything.
Seidel’s time (33:18.37) is not an indicator of her true potential. Scott’s time of 33:25.81 was also well-deserved, as was Stite’s 33:26.15.
The women’s Pole Vault was a spirited tussle between season rivals Demi Payne (Stephen F. Austin) and arch rival Sandi Morris (Arkansas). These two have been battling all season with a fairly equal spread of victories. Payne prevailed with a 4.70m (15′ 5″) vault over Morris’s 4.65m (15′ 3″) second place. Payne’s height was a new NCAA meet record, and Morris’s second place vault also bettered the old NCAA meet record. Morris’s college best stands at 4.72m. Between them, they hold the top ten outdoor collegiate all-time marks.
“This hans’t been an easy journey for me. To come up on top in this meet is incredible and kit’s honestly hard to put into words. I’ve been dreaming about this moment for a while now and I saw it in my mind and think that’s what kept me going all this time.”
Third place, Stephanie Richarts, (Illinois) was a long way back with a vault of 14′ 7″, which indicates how far above the rest of the field the two leaders are.