NCAA Track and Field Championships

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NCAA Track and Field Championships produce world leaders

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The U.S., already boasting its greatest bevy of young sprint talent in more than a decade, should anticipate another pair of new names on the international scene this summer.

LSU’s Sha’Carri Richardson and Florida’s Grant Holloway posted record-breaking performances at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Austin over the weekend.

Richardson, a 19-year-old freshman, won Saturday’s 100m in 10.75 seconds, making her the ninth-fastest woman in history. About 45 minutes later, Richardson broke Allyson Felix‘s 14-year-old world junior record in the 200m, finishing second in 22.17.

Richardson, MileSplit’s No. 1 high school female sprint recruit last year, took a half-second off her 100m personal best since May 24. She’s now the fastest woman in the world this year and the second-fastest for this Olympic cycle, trailing only Jamaican Olympic champion Elaine Thompson.

In the 200m, Richardson ranks second in the world this year behind the woman who beat her at NCAAs — USC junior Anglerne Annelus.

Richardson didn’t commit to racing at next month’s USATF Outdoor Championships in a Saturday night media session. But should she compete in Des Moines, she would be favored to make the world championships team in the 100m, if not both the 100m and the 200m.

Come next summer, Richardson will still be younger than any previous U.S. Olympic 100m sprinter since 1976.

The emergence of not only Richardson, but also 2018 NCAA 100m champion Aleia Hobbs (also of LSU) puts 2017 World champion Tori Bowie on notice. Bowie has a bye into this year’s world championships as defending champion, which is all the more key as she returns from a torn quad.

Holloway, the son of a retired Naval officer and school teacher, came to NCAAs already sharing the fastest 110m hurdles time in the world this year with Kentucky rival Daniel Roberts. But Holloway, who swept the 60m and 110m NCAA titles in 2017 and 2018, had his best night ever on Friday.

In a 150-minute span, Holloway was part of a collegiate-record-breaking 4x100m, broke Renaldo Nehemiah‘s 40-year-old NCAA record in the 110m hurdles (12.98) and posted the only sub-44 split in the 4x400m (43.75).

“Grant has become kind of the face of the sport,” distant cousin and Florida coach Mike Holloway told media afterward, adding that it was time for his pupil to turn pro.

Holloway became the first American to break 13 seconds in the hurdles in nearly four years, ending the once-dominant hurdles nation’s longest drought since 1995. Remember, the U.S. failed to earn a 110m hurdles medal in 2016 for the first time in Olympic history (boycotted 1980 Games aside).

Holloway also became the third man worldwide to break 13 in this Olympic cycle. The others are Rio gold medalist Omar McLeod of Jamaica and 2015 World champion Sergey Shubenkov of Russia.

Holloway and Roberts (who tied Nehemiah’s old record) will make it all the more challenging for 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt to make another Olympic or world team.

Merritt, 33, missed the Rio Games by .01 at trials, 10 months after a kidney transplant. Merritt was the fastest American in 2017 but dropped to seventh last year and has raced just once since last July 22 due to knee surgery.

One other sprinter dazzled at NCAAs: Nigerian Divine Oduduru clocked 9.86 in the 100m and 19.73 in the 200m in a 45-minute span. Only Justin Gatlin has run faster 100m and 200m times on the same day.

Oduduru, the youngest of 10 children from a rural village, tied two of those young U.S. sprint stars, Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman, for the fastest 100m in the world this year. His 200m ranks behind only American Michael Norman and Lyles (who are both college age but turned pro).

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USC wins NCAA women’s track and field title in epic relay finish (video)

Kendall Ellis
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USC capped a bonkers final NCAA Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field with a comeback for the ages, needing a win in the very last event to claim the women’s team title.

The Trojans’ Kendall Ellis was in fifth place going into the 4x400m anchor leg after a mangled handoff. Ellis, the fourth-fastest 400m runner in the world this year, made up a staggering deficit on Purdue’s Jahneya Mitchell in the last 100 meters to win by .07.

Ellis split 50.05 seconds, 2.03 seconds faster than Mitchell, to pull off the comeback. USC needed to win the relay to pass Georgia, which didn’t have a team in the 4x400m final, for the NCAA team title.

Notably, University of Kentucky freshman Sydney McLaughlin split 50.03 on the third leg, then announced she’s turning professional at age 18. McLaughlin won the NCAA title in the 400m hurdles earlier Saturday. She is the fastest woman in the world in the event this year by nine tenths of a second.

McLaughlin reached the Rio Olympic 400m hurdles semifinals as a 17-year-old, the youngest U.S. track and field athlete to make an Olympic team since 1980 and the youngest to compete in the Olympics since 1972.

The University of Oregon’s Hayward Field is to be demolished this summer and replaced by 2020.

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Second-fastest 400m hurdles ever, steeplechase spill at NCAA track champs (video)

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USC junior Rai Benjamin tied Edwin Moses with the second-fastest 400m hurdles time ever, headlining a highlight day at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., on Friday.

Benjamin clocked 47.02 seconds in the rain at the last major meet at Hayward Field, which will be demolished and rebuilt for 2020. Only 1992 Olympic champion Kevin Young‘s world record of 46.78 seconds is faster. Benjamin lowered his personal best from 47.98.

The legendary Moses, a two-time Olympic champion who won 122 straight races in the 1980s, also ran 47.02 in 1983.

Benjamin is a runner without a country, reportedly born in the Bronx to parents from Antigua and Barbuda. The IAAF lists Benjamin with Antigua, but he said Friday that he’s still in the process of trying to switch to the U.S. The IAAF currently has a freeze on nation transfers, though, so Benjamin cannot compete at the USATF Outdoor Championships in two weeks.

NCAAS: Full Meet Results

Also Friday, USC sophomore Michael Norman ran the 11th-fastest 400m ever, winning in 43.61 seconds. Norman, fifth in the 2012 Olympic Trials 200m at age 18, now ranks sixth all-time in the event.

Norman trails Wayde van Niekerk (43.03), Michael Johnson (43.18), Butch Reynolds (43.29), Jeremy Wariner (43.45) and Quincy Watts (43.50) in 400m history.

Finally in the men’s steeplechase, Houston’s Brian Barraza crashed hard off a barrier on the last lap after leading the whole race. He finished 10th.

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