Freshman champs in the spotlight
EUGENE, Ore. -- If you're not familiar with the names Shamier Little or Kendell Williams already, don't worry. You'll have another three years to get acquainted with the two, who have already won national titles.
On Thursday, Texas A&M's Little took the 400-meter hurdles title in a school-record and personal-best time of 55.07, and Georgia's Williams, backing up her national indoor pentathlon title, took the outdoor heptathlon.
It didn't seem like Hayward Field or the national championship aura rattled either freshman, but Little said that wasn't really the case.
"I had a lot of nerves," Little said. "In the blocks, oh gosh, I'm on the verge of tears. And then, once I start running ... when I get to the 200 [-meter mark], the nerves start going away."
Williams, who was also competing at Hayward for the first time in her career, said the venue didn't really get to her but she did get a little jarred when she showed up and saw the senior-laden competition.
"I definitely look at the competitors and I'm like, 'Oh my, they've been at the national level collegiately much longer than I have,'" Williams said. "So that's intimidating."
But the nerves didn't affect their performances, as each overcame her fair share of adversity. Little struggled over the first few hurdles and didn't get out to the strong start she would have liked, which forced her to break a bit earlier on seven-time All-American Kendra Harrison from Kentucky.
And Williams, in her final event of the two-day heptathlon, tripped during the 800-meter race. Her time of 2:28.59 was the second worst of those who competed in the half mile, but she was able to keep her top spot because of the lead she had built over the first six events.
This won't be the last they'll see of Hayward, and it's certainly not the last we've seen of them. With three more years at the collegiate level, each will keep building on her already strong foundation.
But can they even think to their own senior years, when they will compete at Hayward in June 2017?
"I can't imagine it," Little said. "I'm going to feel like a super-duper-duper senior."
"That's so crazy," Williams added. "I'm excited to see how far I can go with this."
400 meters, Longhorn style
Texas managed to score more points in a single race than most teams will score in all of the NCAA championships.
By placing three in the top four (Courtney Okolo first, Kendall Baisden third and Briana Nelson fourth), the Longhorns recorded 21 points for their team. In less than a minute, those three managed to score 72 percent of their team's total points through three days.
Okolo, who was seeded first, maintained her position and ran a half-second faster than she did in her prelim on Wednesday. But it was Baisden, the freshman, who jumped into the top group after running a 51.67 in the prelims and getting the sixth seed.
Oregon's Phyllis Francis, who finished third in the event last year with a time of 50.86, came in from Lane 8 to grab second place and improve on last year's time with a 50.59.
Racing for the title
The title will likely come down to a four-team race between Oregon (43 points), Texas A&M (41), Texas (29) and Florida (29).
The day will start out with the field events. Only high jump and shot put remain, and it's not likely any of the four teams at the top will score in either event.
On the track, the first event is the 4x100-meter relay. Texas and Texas A&M each have a spot, so points are a guarantee. The Aggies are seeded third (43.44), just a hair ahead of the Longhorns (43.69).
In the 1,500-meter run, Oregon has one runner and Florida has two. Oregon's Sarah Penney is seeded fifth (4:18.10) while Florida runners Cory McGee and Agata Strausa are seeded second and fifth, respectively. However, with 12 runners competing, scoring isn't a given. The 100-meter hurdles are also a two-team race: Florida has Bridgette Owens (seeded second) and Texas has Morgan Snow (seeded fifth).
In the 200, Texas has two runners while Oregon and Texas A&M have one apiece. Oregon's Jenna Prandini has the top seed (22.95).
In the 5,000 meters, Texas and Oregon each have one runner, but like the 1,500, scoring is not a certainty, so 20th seed Frida Berge (Oregon) and 16th seed Marielle Hall (Texas) would need to make some moves.
The title and final placing one through four could very well come down to the final event -- the 4x400 relay. Texas has the top-seeded spot (3:28.887), while the Aggies have the second seed (3:28.888), Oregon has the fifth (3:31.35) and Florida has the sixth (3:31.81).
All in all, we're in for an exciting final day in Eugene, Oregon.
1. Shamier Little, Texas A&M (55.07)
2. Kendra Harrison, Kentucky (55.55)
3. Janeil Bellille, Texas A&M (56.14)
4. Nikita Tracey, LSU (56.35)
5. Chanice Chase, LSU (56.51)
6. Kiah Seymour, Penn State (56.67)
7. Leah Nugent, Kentucky (58.25)
8. Eseroghene Okoro, Iowa State (58.93)
1. Remona Burchell, Alabama (11.25)
2. Morolake Akinosun, Texas (11.33)
3. Jenna Prandini, Oregon (11.416)
4. Shayla Sanders, Florida (11.417)
5. Olivia Ekpone, Texas A&M (11.43)
6. Jennifer Madu, Texas A&M (11.54)
7. Mahagony Jones, Penn State (11.57)
8. Tynia Gaither, USC (11.73)
1. Laura Roesler, Oregon (2:01.22)
2. laudia Saunders, Stanford (2:02.92)
3. Ejiroghene Okoro, Iowa State (2:03.37)
4. Megan Malasarte, Georgie (2:03.42)
5. Megan Krumpoch, Dartmouth (2:03.82)
6. Amy Weissenbach, Stanford (2:04.16)
7. Sonia Gaskin, Kansas State (2:04.55)
8. Alexis Panisse, Tennessee (2:06.63)
1. Leah O'Connor, Michigan State (9:36.43)
2. Marisa Howard, Boise State (9:43.82)
3. Rachel Johnson, Baylor (9:44.47)
4. Rachel Sorna, Cornell (9:46.96)
5. Shalaya Kipp, Colorado (9:48.90)
6. Grace Heymsfield, Arkansas (9:49.01)
7. Jessica Kamilos, Arkansas (9:49.25)
8. Alexa Aragon, Notre Dame (9:59.27)
1. Courtney Okolo, Texas (50.23)
2. Phyllis Francis, Oregon (50.59)
3. Kendall Baisden, Texas (51.32)
4. Briana Nelson, Texas (51.39)
5. Michelle Brown, Notre Dame (51.70)
6. Margaret Bamgbose, Notre Dame (51.72)
7. Robin Reynolds, Florida (52.02)
8. Kiara Porter, VCU (52.80)
1. Kendell Williams, Georgia (5,854)
2. Allison Reaser, San Diego State (5,836)
3. Brittany Harrell, Florida (5,835)
4. Paige Knodle, Northern Iowa (5,681)
5. Sarah Chauchard, Eastern Michigan (5,638)
6. Quintunya Chapman, Georgia (5,610)
7. Lindsey Hall, Montana (5,603)
8. Xenia Rahn, North Carolina (5,558)
1. Annika Roloff, Akron (14-5¼)
2. Kelsie Ahbe, Indiana (14-5¼)
3. Martina Schultze, Virginia Tech (14-3¼)
4. Sandi Morris, Arkansas (14-3¼)
5. Ariel Voskamp, Arkansas (13-9¼ )
6. Katrine Haarklau, Missouri (13-9¼ )
7. Alysha Newman, Miami (13-7¼ )
8. Sydney Clute, Indiana (13-7¼ )
1. Shanieka Thomas, San Diego State (45-11¼)
2. LaQue Moen-Davis, Texas A&M (44-6)
3. Ciarra Brewer, Florida (44-3¼)
4. Lynnika Pitts, LSU (44-1¼)
5. Ellie Ewere, Nebraska (43-7¼)
6. Brianna Richardson, Baylor (43-3¾)
7. Dallas Rose, Virginia (43-3)
8. Stormy Nesbit, West Virginia (42-9)