Lynna Irby en route to the 2018 NCAA 400m title (© Kirby Lee)
One day after Michael Norman set a collegiate record in the 400m, Lynna Irby nearly did so, too.
Irby set an NCAA Championships record Saturday (9) as the four-day collegiate nationals came to a close at Eugene, Oregon.
The University of Georgia sprinter affirmed her status as a rising star by winning the NCAA title in 49.80, despite a wet track and temperatures of about 11-12C. Irby, 19, an Indianapolis native, entered the world stage when she won silver medals at IAAF U17 and U20 World Championships in 2015 and 2016.
Although Irby is not eligible for U20 records because she turns 20 in December, she became the fastest US teenager ever. Sanya Richards set the national junior record of 49.89 at the 2004 Olympic Trials.
Irby won a semifinal Thursday in 50.11, her previous PB. Before this year, her PB was 51.39 from the 2016 World U20 Championships.
She broke the meet record of 50.10 set by Monique Henderson in 2005 and became No. 2 in collegiate history behind Courtney Okolo, whose record is 49.71 from 2016. The only faster woman this year is Olympic gold medalist Shaunae Miller-Uibo, a former Georgia sprinter, at 49.52.
Kendall Ellis, after setting a US record at the indoor NCAAs, finished second in 50.19. Brionna Thomas was third in 50.78.
Just 35 minutes after the 400m, Irby placed third in the 200m in 22.92 into a headwind (-2.3). Her 16 points were third-highest, behind double champions Keturah Orji (long and triple jumps) and Maggie Ewen (shot put and discus). Irby became the first since 1989, and first freshman, to score 16 or more points in a 200/400m double.
Anchor leg heroics by Ellis secures team title for USC
Ellis was responsible for the most dramatic moment of the championships. On the anchor leg of the 4x400m, she erased a deficit of nearly 20 meters with a 50.05 to deliver University of Southern California victory at the line over Purdue, 3:27.06 to 3:27.13. The 10 points allowed USC to overtake Georgia for the women’s championship, 53-52. Stanford University was third with 51 points.
It was the second consecutive year in which Georgia, without an entry in the 4x400m, lost to the team winning the relay. Oregon did so in 2017. Georgia had won the NCAA women’s indoor title in March and men’s title on Friday.
Elsewhere, 18-year-old Sydney McLaughlin won the 400 hurdles by nearly two seconds in 53.96. She was well off her world U20 and collegiate record of 52.75, but conditions were unfavourable for fast times.
“It was a little concerning with the puddles and such,” she said in an ESPN interview. “The fact that it stopped raining was good for us, and I’m happy the way it turned out.”
McLaughlin contributed a 50.03 third leg to University of Kentucky in the 4x400m. Afterward, she affirmed she would turn professional after one college season.
Another first-year champion, joining Irby and McLaughlin, was 18-year-old Sammy Watson in the 800m. The gold medalist from the 2015 U17 and 2016 U20 World Championships held on in the 800m in 2:04.21.
Although the time was not impressive, Aleia Hobbs’ victory in the 100 meters was. Despite a blinding downpour, she finished first in 11.01, building a margin of .23
“I couldn’t see nothing,” Hobbs said. “I couldn’t even see the track.”
Earlier, Hobbs ran anchor for the Louisiana State team winning the 4x100m relay in 42.24.
The 100m hurdles, also held during the downpour, was won by Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn in 12.70. The Bahamas’ Devynne Charlton, out of lane 8, was out fastest and finished second in 12.77.
The day’s biggest upset was by of USC’s Anglerne Annelus in the 200m. She won in 22.76 over indoor champion Gabby Thomas and the doubling Irby. Annelus’ 10 points for USC set the stage for the 4x400m drama.
Orji collects fourth triple jump title
Orji and Ewen capped dominant college careers.
Orji’s distance of 14.04m gave her a four-year sweep of the triple jump. Including indoors, she finished with eight NCAA victories, a record for field events. The only others to win long and triple jumps at the same NCAAs were Kim Williams in 2009 and Sheila Hudson in 1990.
Ewen, third until the final round, threw the discus 60.48m to become the first woman since 2000 to win a shot/discus double. She might have won an unprecedented triple, considering she holds the collegiate record in the hammer, but did not qualify for NCAAs because of three fouls in a regional.
One of the few chances for the home Oregon crowd to cheer was the victory by Jessica Hull in a 1500m in which the top four all ran PBs. Hull, with a time of 4:08.75, completed an Australian sweep of the 1500m races after Oliver Hoare won the men’s race Friday.
Nikki Hiltz was second in 4:09.14. Elise Cranny and Christina Aragon, both of Stanford, were third and fourth in 4:09.49 and 4:09.59. Premeet favorite Elinor Purrier, the indoor mile champion, was seventh in 4:11.56.
“Last time at Hayward Field,” Hull said. “That was so special, I will never forget that.”
Hayward Field seating is being demolished to clear way for a new stadium to host the 2021 IAAF World Championships. Attendance Saturday was 12,998 for a four-day total of 44,111.
Roy Jordan for the IAAF