Let me tell you something. Dave Hunter loves writing about the NCAA champs. Each day, you see more and enthusiasm as the stories begin to take shape. In Day 3, Dave puts the Men’s team battle into perspective, and we see the big and little stories.
Nice to see Olin Hacker take the 5,000m, Olin has dealt with some serious adversity, and that final lap in the 5,000m, oh my gosh. On Wisconsin! (Dave Hunter is quite proud of his alma mater, Princeton, we must say here!)
Florida celebrates their 2022 NCAA Men’s victory! photo by Kevin Neri
NCAA Men: Gators Romp As Florida’s Fahnbulleh Snags Sprint Double
This is the day the men have been waiting for. Those athletes who have worked, have trained, have met qualifying standards, and have made it through regional competition and preliminary rounds in this championship setting know today is the day. It is the day to focus and to perform at your highest level.
With points being earned today in the 14 remaining men’s events, here are the current standings of the top schools in the race for the team title heading into this final NCAA Championship session for the men: Tennessee 21 points; Texas 20 points; Florida State 16 points; Princeton 15 points; Arkansas 12 points.
On the men’s final day of the competition, here are some of the truly stunning performances:
4x100m Relay. All 9 quartets ran sub-39 seconds in the preliminary round to gain a coveted lane for this final. The University of Southern California had the winning formula. The men of Troy exhibited precision baton passes as they fought on to victory in 38.49, their first NCAA 4×1 win since 1980. Florida (38.52) rode a stunning close by their anchor Joseph Fahnbulleh to finish 2nd while Houston got up for 3rd.
Discus. In what surely was the closest event of the day, Virginia frosh Claudio Romero (66.17m) eked out the victory, edging California’s Mykolas (66.15m) by two centimeters!
1500m. After a cautious beginning, the real race got rolling over the final 600 meters. Washington sophomore Joe Waskom (3:45.67) uncorked a final lap in 53.26 to cross the line first. Ole Miss junior Mario Garcia Romo (3:45.69) finished 2nd while Princeton senior Sam Ellis (3:45.82) grabbed 6 points for the Tigers with his 3rd place finish.
110H. All eyes were on heavy favorite Trey Cunningham as the Florida State senior came to Eugene with a collegiate-leading clocking of 13.07. The final featured an epic race between Cunningham and LSU senior Eric Edwards. With a superior sprint on the run-in, Cunningham grabbed the win in a world-leading clocking of 13.00 – a personal best for the victor and #3 on the world list. Edwards (13:15) finished 2nd in a personal best time.
100m. Florida sophomore Fahnbulleh (10.00) – with yet another dramatic closing surge – looked impressive with his come-from-behind win. Tennessee freshman Favour Ashe (10.075) nipped North Carolina A&T sophomore Javonte Harding (10.079) in a photo finish for 2nd.
400m. Heavily-favored North Carolina A&T junior Randolph Ross did not disappoint, driving on to victory to successfully defend his 400m title. The indoor 400m champion’s winning time of 44.13 is a season’s best, a collegiate leader, and #3 on the collegiate all-time list. Florida junior Champion Allison was 2nd in 44.41 while Georgia junior Elija Godwin finished 3rd in a personal best clocking of 44.50.
800m. Texas A&M athlete Brandon Miller led the finalists through the first 400m in a spritely 50.87. But Texas Tech senior Moad Zahafi (1:44.49) took charge on the backstretch and covered the final lap in 53.34 for the victory. Mississippi State athlete Navasky Anderson (1:45.02) grabbed 2nd while Miller (1:45.09) hung on for 3rd. The finishers, 2 through 7, all ran personal best times.
400H. In what proved to be one of the more awkward finals, LSU sophomore Sean “Squirrel” Burrell muscled his way to victory. It wasn’t pretty. Undaunted after hitting many hurdles, Squirrel somehow scampered down the homestretch to cross first in 48.70 – #8 on the world list – in what was a successful defense of his title. Texas Tech senior Malik Metivier (48.89) finished 2nd while Oklahoma senior Isaiah Levingston (49,20) was 3rd.
200m. In perhaps the most stunning individual track performance of the day, Florida’s Fahnbulleh destroyed a talented field in the 200m final, securing his sprint double. His winning time of 19.83 left the rest far behind and was a personal best for the victor. The Florida star’s winning time is now #4 on the collegiate all-time list and is tied #3 (with Michael Norman) on the current world list. Left in his wake were Georgia’s Matthew Boling (2nd in 20.13) and Stanford’s Udodi Onwuzurike (3rd in 20.15).
5000m. Shortly after the 5K got underway, many in the 24-athlete field began the customary cat and mouse game in the event’s early going. The real racing did not get underway in earnest until the final 3 laps, as a dozen competitors were well-positioned to fight for a spot on the podium. Oregon’s Aaron Bienenfeld, Michigan State’s Morgan Beadlescomb, Florida State’s Adriaan Wildschutt, Arkansas’s Amon Kemboi, and Wisconsin’s Olin Hacker were all in the mix, battling for favorable placing in what would be a frantic race to the line. After a 61-second penultimate lap, the leaders took the bell. Inside 300m to go, Hacker threw down a strong move that lifted him into the lead as the others gave immediate chase. But Hacker had yet another gear, driving onto the line in disbelief, crossing in 13:27.73. His final lap time was an impressive 54.62. Beadlescomb crossed next in 13:28.73 while Northern Arizona athlete Nico Young got up for 3rd in 13:28.62.
4x400m Relay. The 1600-meter relay – the concluding event for the men – provided an exciting ending to a great championship. 7 of the 9 finalists had clocked under 3:02 in the preliminary round, and sub-3:00 clockings in the final were a distinct possibility. As the race unfolded, a three-team battle emerged between Florida, USC, and Alabama. A scintillating anchor leg (44.06) by Florida’s Champion Allison thwarted attempted passes by USC’s Johnnie Blockburger as the Gators sped on for the win in 2:58.88 – a new field record and meet record. The Trojans fought on to cross 2nd in 2:59.98 while Alabama just missed the sub- 3:00 party, finishing 3rd in 3:00.17.
As many predicted, Florida captured the men’s team title with 54 points, with 28 of those points coming from Fahnbulleh – his sprint double and his critical anchor leg in the 4×1. Texas finished 2nd with 38 points while Tennessee rang up 34 points for 3rd.
At the post-event awards ceremony, Florida coach Mike Holloway explained how the Gators were able to get it done. “Most importantly, we’re a team. We just keep at it,” said the celebrated coach. “There were too many people out there who doubted us, who said we couldn’t do it. What I said to the guys a couple days ago was, ‘Do what you’re supposed to do on your day. Try to take care of yourself.’ And they absolutely trusted each other absolutely.” / Dave Hunter /