Report14 Mar 2021

Harrison, Hocker and Gittens make history at NCAA Indoor Championships


Juvaughn Harrison at the NCAA Indoor Championships (© Kirby Lee)

JuVaughn Harrison produced the best single-day high jump and long jump double ever to provide one of several highlights at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, which concluded on Saturday (13).

Just two hours after winning the high jump with a 2.30m personal best, Harrison, 21, returned to action in the long jump where he sailed out to a world-leading 8.45m in the fifth round to land in the event's No.8 position all-time indoors.

Harrison, a student at Louisiana State University, arrived with a personal best of 8.33m, achieved at this same facility at the SEC Championships on 26 February, and ultimately needed to exceed that to conclude his double triumph.

In a quality competition, Isaac Grimes set the tone with an 8.14m leap in the first round and further padded his lead with an 8.21m in the second. Meanwhile, Harrison made a more low-key start, posting a 7.89m opener before he improved to 8.02m in round three and 8.14m in round four. 

His big leap came in the fifth round but Grimes didn't give up, giving Harrison one last scare with a final-round 8.35m jump, equalling the second farthest in the world this indoor season and a career best. 

Carey McLeod from the University of Tennessee was third with an 8.26m effort, the fifth farthest leap of the year. That too, was a lifetime best. 

Hocker completes distance triple

Less than 24 hours after leading off the victorious University of Oregon team in the distance medley relay, Cole Hocker returned to the track for his individual campaign – in two disciplines.

The 19-year-old first took on the mile and he settled into a comfortable pace during the first few laps, dictating the race and keeping Alabama’s Eliud Kipsang at bay. Hocker started to wind up the tempo with three laps to go, then kicked hard at the bell.

With a 25.87-second last lap, Hocker crossed the line a comfortable winner in a championships record of 3:53.71, finishing more than two seconds ahead of Kipsang.

Just one hour later, Hocker lined up for the 3000m alongside teammate Cooper Teare. This time Hocker allowed Teare to control the race, going through 1000m in 2:38.75 and 2000m in 5:18.30.

The pace increased for the final kilometre and Teare still led at the bell with Hocker in third. Hocker moved into second on the back straight but still trailed Teare by about five metres. With each stride, though, Hocker was closing and he eventually edged ahead in the last few metres, crossing the line in a PB of 7:46.15 – just 0.21 shy of the meeting record. Teare was second in 7:46.23.

World leads for Williams, Steiner and Boling

Noah Williams, Abby Steiner and Matthew Boling moved into the top 10 on the world indoor all-time lists when winning their respective disciplines.

Williams took the men’s 400m title in 44.71, just 0.14 shy of the ratified world indoor record and good for fourth on the world indoor all-time list. Randolph Ross won the first section of the final but placed second overall, dipping inside 45 seconds with 44.99.

A little further back, placing fourth overall, Ryan Willie clocked 45.40 – the fourth-fastest indoor time ever by an U20 athlete.

Later on in the programme, Ross joined forces with his North Carolina A&T teammates to win the 4x400m in 3:03.16. Ross led off the team with a 45.68 split, while Trevor Stewart anchored them to victory in 44.67.

A little further back, however, Elija Godwin uncorked a 44.21 effort - the fastest indoor 4x400m split in history - to anchor the University of Georgia to a 3:04.84 clocking.

Abby Steiner extended her winning streak in the one-lap sprint by taking the women’s 200m title in a world-leading 22.38. Drawn in lane five, she gradually chased down Tamara Clark in the outside lane and passed her coming off the final turn. Clark made up a bit of ground in the closing stages, but Steiner held on.

Steiner’s winning time moves her to equal fifth on the world indoor all-time list, just 0.05 shy of Gwen Torrence’s North American indoor record. Clark was second in 22.45, moving her into the all-time top 20.

Two weeks after being disqualified for a lane violation at the SEC Championships, Boling gained redemption by winning the NCAA indoor 200m title.

The quadruple Pan-American U20 champion, aged 20, stopped the clock at 20.19 to hold off Terrance Laird by 0.01. Boling now moves to equal sixth on the world indoor all-time list.

After finishing second in the individual 400m behind Kaelin Roberts, 50.83 to 51.03, Athing Mu of Texas A&M lined up for the 4x400m with a point to prove.

The 18-year-old, who has clocked 50.52 and 1:58.40 for 400m and 800m this year, elevated her team from second to first thanks to her 49.54 anchor leg - the fastest indoor 4x400m split in history. Texas A&M's winning time of 3:26.68 was a championship record.

Double for Gittens, collegiate record for Davis

Tyra Gittens of Texas A&M also achieved a notable double.

The 22-year-old from Trinidad & Tobago broke the national and collegiate records in the heptathlon on Thursday, tallying 4746 points, the third best effort in the world this season. She notched personal bests in three of the five events, including the high jump, where she cleared a national indoor record of 1.93m.

She then doubled back to win the high jump on Friday with 1.90m before capping her indoor campaign with a 6.68m leap in the long jump, another national indoor record, to finish third in that event.

That too proved to be a quality competition, with winner Tara Davis, an age group star in the event since her mid-teens, threatening the seven-metre barrier for the first time in her career. Davis, 21, took command of the competition with a 6.71m leap in the second round before putting it out of reach with a 6.93m jump in the third, breaking the collegiate record.

Claire Bryant came closest, reaching 6.70m in the final round - her third personal best of the day - to finish second, just two centimetres ahead of Gittens.

60m double for Oregon, Lightfoot breaks championship record

University of Oregon’s Kemba Nelson produced a surprise victory in the women’s 60m. The 21-year-old Jamaican, who hadn’t raced indoors before this year, set a PB of 7.13 in the heats and chopped it down to 7.05 to win the final, breaking the collegiate record in the process. World U20 100m silver medallist Tanisha Terry was second in 7.14.

Nelson’s teammate Micah Williams took the men’s title in 6.49, equalling his PB. University of Florida student Raymond Ekevwo was second in 6.54.

Collegiate record-holder KC Lightfoot lived up to expectations to win the men’s pole vault title. The Baylor University student led through the early heights, but faltered slightly at 5.80m, needing three attempts to get over.

Zach McWhorter cleared it on his second try so temporarily took the lead, but Lightfoot responded with a first-time clearance at 5.85m while McWhorter went no higher. Lightfoot went on to clear a championship record of 5.93m before bowing out with three misses at 6.02m.

Estonian Karel Tilga, a student at the University of Georgia, won the heptathlon with 6264 points, 64 ahead of teammate Kyle Garland.

The 800m titles were won in very different ways. In the men’s race, Oregon’s Charlie Hunter overcame some bumping and barging to move from fourth to first on the final lap, catching Finley McLear right on the line to win by 0.01 in 1:45.90.

Aaliyah Miller front-ran her way to victory in the women’s event, passing through 400m in 56.90 – well clear of the rest of the field – but holding on to win in a meeting record of 2:00.69.

Jamaican teenager Ackera Nugent was a comfortable winner of the women’s 60m hurdles in 7.92, while the men’s event was much close with just 0.03 separating the first four finishers. LSU’s Damion Thomas, also of Jamaica, won in 7.51 with Jamal Britt taking second in 7.52.

The women’s triple jump went right down to the wire. Deborah Acquah led from the first round, opening with 13.82m and then improving to 14.27m, a Ghanaian indoor record. Pre-event favourite Ruth Usoro recorded three fouls in the first four rounds but found her rhythm in the fifth round, leaping 14.21m. She matched Acquah’s leading mark in the final round, 14.27m, but moved into first place by virtue of her second-best mark. Acquah’s final effort of 13.76m wasn’t enough to regain the lead.

Elsewhere, Oregon’s Emmanual Ihemeje sailed out to 17.26m to comfortably win the men’s triple jump, while Turner Washington threw 21.36m to dominate the men's shot put, winning by more than a metre.

Lisa Gunnarson, a Swede competing for Louisiana State University, won the pole vault with a first-attempt clearance at 4.56m, before capping the night with three misses at 4.70m. The 21-year-old’s winning effort nonetheless added one centimetre to her indoor best.

Kenyans Wesley Kiptoo and Joyce Kimeli won their respective titles in the 5000m. Kiptoo, competing for Iowa State, won the men's race in 13:23.77 and Kimeli, a third year student at Auburn University, the women's in 15:48.98.

Bob Ramsak and Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics