As you head to Hayward Field, after your walk on Pre’s Trail, and a beverage at the Wild Duck, heres’s David Hunter’s piece on Day One of the NCAA Champs! We have five stories posted already on the NCAA’s, so please tell friends to go to runblogrun.com. Thanks to David Hunter on this fine piece!
June 7th, 2017
As dusk began to fall over Hayward Field, 24 competitors bounced in anticipation behind the start line just before commencement of the only running event final of the day: the men’s 10,000 meters. It was a nervous moment. But all 24 knew one thing: this night they would not be beaten by 17-time NCAA champion Edward Cheserek. When the Oregon star sustained a pesky injury in winning the PAC-12 10,000 which precluded the defense of his 10K national title, speculation was rampant as to how the 10,000 meter final would unfold and who would step up and grab the crown.
In the absence of the dominating defending champion, the race, as expected, reflected caution as a tight pack – lead by Alabama junior Alfred Chelanga split 1K in 2:54. Shortly thereafter Jacob Choge of Middle Tennessee State eased into the front and crossed 2K in 5:53 closely shadowed by Chelanga and his teammate Antibahs Kosgei, BYU’s Clayton Young, and Butler’s Erik Peterson. When 4K’s was passed in 11:47, it was clear that the tepid pace was allowing virtually all athletes to be in the hunt and that a furious finish was likely. When the pack dawdled past 5K in 14:53, Peterson had seen enough and surged to the front to up the tempo, pulling the large lead pack through 6K in 17:46. With athletes carefully eyeing their competition, Choge lead the dwindling leaders through the 21st lap in 67 seconds and the serious racing began to unfold as the 9thkilometer was covered in 2:52. Navy senior Lucas Stalnaker, who had been biding his time in the pack, stormed to the front with 2 laps remaining and covered the penultimate circuit in 62.9 seconds. With the field stringing out, Tulsa senior Marc Scott – who dutifully had covered all earlier subtle moves – unleashed a punishing kick with 250 meters remaining. With a final lap of 55 seconds, Scott covered the final 800m in 1:55 for the win in 29:01.54. Fast-closing Rory Linkletter of BYU got up for 2nd [2902.96] and Stalnaker [29:04.74] hung on for 3rd. “I thought some guys might separate earlier, but the slow race is what I’ve done all year,” explained Scott afterwards. “Sit and sit for as long as I can and then really go after it for the last 400-600m. It was spot on for me.”
Premier among the semi-final rounds was the men’s 100 meters. Tennessee junior Christian Coleman drew gasps from the capacity crowd in his preliminary heat as a rocket start and a terrific drive phase powered him to a breathtaking semi-final win. His wind-legal time of 9.82 set a new NCAA record, is a world-leading mark, and ranks #8 on the all-time world list. Houston junior Cameron Burrell – who can sprint like his daddy – and North Carolina A&T senior Christopher Belcher both won their respective heats in identical 9.93’s. Later in the day, Belcher [20.01] sent a little message to Coleman [20.21] by edging him head-to-head in their shared 200m semi. If Friday’s weather doesn’t spoil it, the men’s 100 meter final could really be something special.
Also worthy of special note are the semi-final races at 800 meters. UTEP Freshman Emmanuel Korir – the reigning NCAA indoor 800 meter champ, the collegiate leader at 1:43.73, #4 on the collegiate 800 meter all-time list; and #2 on this year’s world list – looked well within himself in winning his semi in 1:46.63. Semi winners Drew Piazza [1:46.75] of Virginia Tech and Michael Saruni [1:46.38 – fastest qualifier] – another sparkling UTEP frosh – may well push Korir as could Penn State soph and Big Ten champion Isaiah Harris.
In the decathlon, the Day One leader is Minnesota senior Luca Wieland whose performance in the first 5 events [10.56 / 25’1Â¾ /45’3″ / 7’1″ / 48.54] earned him 4349 points. The Golden Gopher heads into the concluding day with a 91 point lead over always-dangerous Lindon Victor. The Texas A&M senior holds the decathlon collegiate record of 8539 points which he set last month.
5 field finals were held on Day One of the men’s competition. Cornell senior – an Olympian and last year’s Olympic Trials champion – uncorked a 3rd round heave of 74.12m/243’2″ to win the men’s hammer throw as collegiate leader Kansas Gleb Dudarev finished 3rd.
In the men’s javelin, Texas A&M junior Ioannis Kyriazis flew the spear 82.58m/270’11” to win the jav crown and set a new NCAA championship meet record. Being an upperclassman helped Kyriazis. “Honestly, NCAAs is a hard meet,” he confessed. “I’m happy that I made it here and I won. I’m more experienced. I knew what I was going to go through, I think I was calmer.”
University of Florida athletes – junior KeAndre Bates [8.05m/26’5″] and his freshman teammate Grant Holloway [8.00m/26’3″] – went 1-2 in the men’s long jump to capture 18 big point points for the Gators and to further Florida’s long-standing jump tradition. “I’m glad that I did this for my team. That’s what I was really worried about. I was upset that I wasn’t coming through, but I just kept my composure and stayed with it and didn’t give up,” said Bates when the event had concluded. “We’ve been trying to do this since I was a freshman,” revealed Bates on the U of F 1-2 finish. “So I’m glad that me and Grant (Holloway) got to do this.”
In the men’s shot put, University of Virginia senior Filip Mihaljevic successfully defended his NCAA title when he got the ball out to lifetime best of 21.30m/69’10Â¾” to once again win the championship, bettering Colorado State junior and collegiate leader Mostafa Hassan [20.38m/66’10Â½”]. “It means a lot,” stated the Bosnia and Herzegovina native on winning the crown again. “People in Europe don’t really understand what it means to be an NCAA Champion, but people here really appreciate it, and my school and my program do so much for me, so I just wanted to give back in the best way possible.”
One of the more exciting competitions of the day was the men’s pole vault final. The battle among 24 sky pilots boiled down to a Buckeye State showdown between Cincinnati junior Adrian Valles and University of Akron sophomore Matthew Ludwig. Those two were tied for the lead and were the only remaining competitors as the bar went up to 5.60m/18’4Â½”. After both failed on initial attempts, Ludwig nearly had a clearance on his second attempt. A jump off seemed likely when Valles missed his 3rd attempt and Ludwig stood on the runway for his final attempt at 5.60m. The East Grandstand erupted in cheers as Ludwig – who had been jumping cleanly throughout the day – unfurled a magnificent ascent and Zipped over the bar to clinch the title. Two anticlimactic misses at 5.75m/18’10Â½” concluded a day that Ludwig will never forget. “We’ve been making very small changes in our standard depth, like five-centimeter changes,” offered the new champion in the mixed zone. “That was really the difference maker, and it helped to execute to be as precise as pole vault is. It’s just the stuff that we’ve worked on all season, all year, and it just all came together today, and it was some of the cleanest jumping I’ve ever had.” Ludwig – who joins Annika Roloff and Shawn Barber to become Akron’s 3rd NCAA pole vault champion in the last 4 years – is quick to note Akron’s rise not only in the vertical jump, but also as a well-rounded overall team. “Akron track is on its way up. We have great coaching and great staff over there. They really know what they’re doing. It’s been a great time coming up, and this is something we’ve worked towards all year.”
The men will now engage in a rest day as they prepare for Friday’s whirlwind lineup of track & field finals while the women now step forward to strut their stuff on collegiate track & field’s biggest stage. Dave Hunter