Report09 Jun 2024

Pryce, Long and Jones impress in sprints at NCAA Championships


Nickisha Pryce wins the NCAA 400m title (© Shawn Price)

Nickisha Pryce created history in numerous ways on the final day of action at the NCAA Championships in Eugene on Saturday (8).

Not only did the 23-year-old smash the Jamaican record to win the 400m in 48.89, she also tore apart the collegiate record (49.13) and jumped back to the top of the world list. Pryce, whose previous PB of 49.32 was set at the SEC Championships last month, went out hard but was chased most of the way by Arkansas teammates Kaylyn Brown, Amber Anning and Rosey Effiong.

But Pryce managed to maintain her lead and pulled away from teenager Brown down the home straight to cross the line in 48.89. Brown set a PB of 49.13 in second, while Anning (49.59) and Effiong (49.72) also finished inside 50 seconds in third and fourth.

It was a historic 1-2-3-4 finish for Arkansas, as it was the first time any college has achieved such a feat in any discipline at the NCAA Championships.

Those points proved valuable for Arkansas as they went on to secure the overall women’s team title, but it was only confirmed after the final discipline, the 4x400m.

Arkansas started as the clear favourites to win the relay, but they still managed to produce a surprise as they smashed the collegiate record by four seconds to win in 3:17.96 – the 10th fastest time in history.

Anning got the team off to a strong start with a 50.52 opening leg before handing over to Effiong, who maintained the lead with 49.21. Price extended the lead with a 49.20 split before Brown anchored the team to victory with a 49.05, crossing the line more than five seconds ahead of Tennessee (3:23.32).

Individually, McKenzie Long was the leading points earner as the sprinter from Ole Miss won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m within the space of 100 minutes.

At the start of the afternoon she ran the second leg for Ole Miss in the 4x100m and watched her team go on to win in 42.34 from LSU (42.57). 50 minutes later, Long took the 100m title in a marginally wind-assisted 10.82, finishing 0.07 ahead of LSU’s Brianna Lyston, the Jamaican sprinter who won world U20 gold in 2022 and NCAA indoor 60m gold earlier this year.

Less than an hour later, Long was back on track for the 200m and she produced her most dominant run of the weekend. She had a slight lead as she came off the bend, then gradually pulled away to win in a lifetime best of 21.83 – a world-leading mark and just 0.03 shy of the collegiate record.

Teenager JaMeesia Ford was second in 22.08, breaking Allyson Felix’s North American U20 record, and she was followed by Jadyn Mays (22.19) and Jayla Jamison (22.26).

Valby breaks collegiate record to complete distance double

Two days after winning the 10,000m title, Florida’s Parker Valby produced a solo run in the 5000m, winning in 14:52.18 to shave 0.61 off her own collegiate record. It was her fifth NCAA title within the past 12 months – a record achievement for a distance runner.

All-round hurdles talent Jasmine Jones also attempted a double. The NCAA indoor 60m hurdles champion finished just shy of the podium in the 100m hurdles, she enjoyed her moment of glory in the 400m hurdles when taking the title in a PB of 53.15, taking 0.06 off Kori Carter’s championship record. Savannah Sutherland was a close second in 53.26, while Rachel Glenn – who had competed in the high jump earlier in the afternoon – was third in 54.11.

Jones clocked a PB of 12.64 in the sprint hurdles, which was won by Grace Stark in 12.47 (-0.5m/s). Maribel Caicedo (12.56) and Rayniah Jones (12.59) were the other podium finishers.

The high jump produced the closest finish of the day – so close, in fact, that Rose Yeboah and Elena Kulichenko could not be separated after they both opted against a jump-off to decide an individual winner.

Yeboah, Kulichenko and Temitope Adeshina had cleared a best of 1.97m, which not only represented PBs and a championship record for the trio, but all three women also broke their respective national records (Ghana, Cyprus and Nigeria). Adeshina placed third on countback, while Yeboah and Kulichenko were tied in first after recording the same number of failures.

Jamaican jumper Ackelia Smith was another athlete to achieve a double win. Having taken the long jump title two days ago, the Texas student returned to win the triple jump with a season’s best of 14.52m.

The championship record fell in the steeplechase as Kenya’s Doris Lemngole, representing Alabama, won in 9:15.24, finishing two seconds ahead of Olivia Markezich (9:17.36).

Elsewhere, Timara Chapman won the heptathlon by more than 100 points with a PB of 6339, and Juliette Whittaker led a Stanford 1-2 in the 800m from Roisin Willis, 1:59.61 to 2:00.17.

Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics