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2018 NCAA Track & Field Championships

By: Preston Johnson

Article originally featured in Run Utah Magazine Summer/Fall Edition 2018.  Click HERE to download Full PDF version of the Magazine.

In June the nations-best collegiate track athletes gathered at Historic Hayward Field in Eugene Oregon with national titles on their minds. Among those athletes were 14 Utah based distance runners, ready to run fast.

Qualifying for the NCAA Championships is no small task. The first requirement is to run a top 48 time in your region in your respective event, with their only being two regions (east and west) these regions include a lot of athletes. After hitting your qualifying time, you are then sent to your respective regional meet where you compete in either one (5k, Steeplechase, and 10k) or two rounds (800m and 1500m) of your event eliminating more athletes each round to get to the final twelve that will be sent to compete at the national championships.

The NCAA championships consists of four days of competition, two for the men and two for the women. Again, this meet may include a semifinal heat (800m, 1500m, and 3000m Steeplechase) before the actual final. As I break down each event keep in mind that I am only covering the events with Utah distance runners. In the other distance races, I will briefly list the top three finishers.

Men’s Day One

Day one consists of four distance races. The 1500m semifinal is first, followed by the steeplechase semifinal, 800m semifinal, and then the 10k final. With no Utah athletes in the 1500m semifinal, we will jump straight to the Steeplechase. This race included four Utah athletes, Clayson Shumway from BYU, Spencer Fehlberg from Utah State, Jordan Cross from Weber State, and Matt Owens from BYU. This event was wide open when it came to favorites, there were lots of athletes all with seed times in the low 8:40’s and high 8:30’s. Ultimately two of the four Utah athletes made it through the semifinal round, Clayson Shumway taking the second seed into the final and Matt Owens taking the tenth seed into the final.

Next up was the 800m. Representing Utah State, Clay Lambourne was the only Utah athlete to qualify. While he was ultimately eliminated in the semifinal, Lambourne deserves a lot of credit for a great season in an event that was absolutely stacked.

Following the 800m was the first final for the distance races. The 10k was also filled with lots of talented Utah athletes, including Rory Linkletter from BYU who had taken second place in last year’s championships, Dillon Maggard from Utah State who had taken sixth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, Clayton Young from BYU, Mike Tate from SUU, and Connor Mantz a freshman from BYU. Generally, at championship meet the 10k is very tactical. The race is taken out really slow and over the last mile or two the pace picks up dramatically breaking most of the field and allowing for a very fast lap. That was not the case in this year’s race though, with the leader coming through the first 400m in sixty seconds and the mile in 4:21. This fast start caused a lot of havoc among the athletes ultimately causing a lot of changes to race plans. Dillon Maggard ending up being the top dog for Utah athletes taking third place overall in 28:38 behind Vincent Kiprop in second, Michigan’s Ben Flanagan winning the race with a quick last lap of fifty-six seconds. Connor McMillan was twelfth, Mike Tate was twenty-first, Connor Mantz was twenty-second, Clayton Young was twenty-third, and Rory Linkletter was twenty-fourth.

Women’s Day One

Day one consists of the same events as day one for the men. Kicking things off for the women was Sophomore Whittni Orton of BYU, the lone Utah athlete (men or women) to qualify in the 1500m. Placing ninth in her heat she didn’t qualify for the finals but ran her second fastest time of the season (4:17.84) to finish nineteenth overall.

Following the 1500m was the steeplechase semifinal. Grayson Murphy of the University of Utah and Cierra Simmons of Utah State would toe the line for this event. Murphy came into the meet as one of the favorites to podium after taking eighth at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, second at the Pac-12 championships, and third at the Stanford Invitational. She didn’t disappoint winning her heat in a PR of 9:48.57. Following closely behind her was Simmons who also ran a PR of 9:50.35. Each of their performances earned them a spot in the final two days later.

Unfortunately, no Utah athletes qualified for the 800m or 10k. We will cover the winners of the 800m final in day two. The 10k was a very fast race as it saw a thirty-year-old meet record fall due to Sharon Lokedi’s (Kansas) 32:09.20 winning time, but she wasn’t the only runner to break the old meet record as five other runners dipped under the previous record. Dorcas Wasike of Louisville took second and Karissa Schweizer of Missouri took third.

Men’s Day Two

As day two is only comprised of finals the number of athletes we have competing drops off quite a bit. No athletes from Utah were represented in the 1500m or the 800m.

The men’s 1500m included a big upset as Josh Kerr, collegiate record holder, failed to repeat as the winner. Oliver Hoare from Wisconsin won a tactical race in 3:44.77 followed by Vincent Ciattei of Virginia Tech (3:45.012) and Josh Kerr (3:45.015).

Up next on day two was the steeplechase final. Our two qualifiers from day one’s prelims, Owens and Shumway, both finished as All-Americans finishing in sixth and seventh in the twelve-man field. Minnesota’s Obsa Ali was the winner running a PR of 8:32.23, Eastern Kentucky’s Jamaine Coleman was second, and Stanford’s Steven Fahy took third.

The men’s 800m saw another collegiate record holder get beat to the line as sophomore Michael Saruni (PR of 1:43.25) of UTEP finished in third. The freshman from Mississippi State, Marco Arop, finished in second, and Isaiah Harris from Penn State got the big win in 1:44.76.

The final distance race of the meet for the men was the 5k final. Utah had 4 athletes doubling back from the 10k final two days ago, Linkletter from BYU, Maggard from Utah State, McMillan from BYU, and Young also from BYU. This is another race that is often run in a tactical manner in championship races and this one played out in exactly that way. Again, our top runner was Maggard taking sixth place, behind him was Linkletter bouncing back from a disappointing 10k to finish eighth, Young finished in twelfth, and McMillan finished the race in twenty-fourth. Grant Fisher from Stanford took third, Justyn Knight the pre-race favorite from Syracuse took second, and this year’s 5k national champ was Sean McGorty from Stanford with a time of 13:54.81.

Women’s Day Two

The final day of competition for the women, and the meet as a whole, started off with a bang. The Women’s 1500m, always a fan favorite distance to watch, was first. Jessica Hull from Oregon got the win in 4:08.75, Nikki Hiltz from Arkansas finished second in 4:09.14, and Stanford’s Elise Cranny took third in 4:09.49

The single distance event of day two for the women that had Utah athletes was the steeplechase and both of our athletes that qualified came ready to compete. Murphy from the University of Utah finished in sixth nearly equaling her time from the semifinal running 9:48.80. Simmons from Utah State surpassed her time from the semifinals to get another PR (9:49.33) and finish in eighth place. Allie Ostrander the Sophomore from Boise State got the win in 9:39.28 winning by more than 6 seconds. Charlotte Prouse (New Mexico) was second and Paige Stoner (Syracuse) was third. Both Utah athletes have earned All-American honors.

The women’s 800m was up next. Raevyn Rogers of Oregon was the women to beat the last few years collecting five national titles, but now that she has graduated it was time to crown a new champion. That champion was Sammy Watson the freshman from Texas A&M winning in 2:04.21. She was followed by Abike Egbeniyi from Middle Tennessee State and Ashley Taylor from Northern Arizona.

The final distance race of the meet was the women’s 5k. After doubling back from a third-place finish in the 10k Karissa Schweizer of Missouri struck gold winning the race in 15:41.58. Allie Buchalski of Furman finished just one second shy of Schweizer in second and Lilli Burdon of Oregon rounded out the top three.

If you would like to view full results of every event at the NCAA Championships check out the official results here.

Preston is a former student athlete at Weber State University from Kaysville, UT. At Weber State he competed in the 5k and 10k on the track. He graduated in the spring of 2018 with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science. He still runs as a member of the Utah Running Elite racing team and is working towards the Olympic Trials Marathon in 2020. He is one of the managers at UtahRunning.com and loves coaching and helping other athletes reach their goals. Outside of running he enjoys hiking, biking, swimming, and rock climbing.


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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 13th, 2018 at 11:19 am and is filed under College Running, Racing, Run Utah Magazine, Summer/Fall 2018. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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