100 Years Of NCAA Track & Field Championships

It was only fitting that the centennial edition of the NCAA meet be staged at Hayward Field. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

EUGENE, OREGON, June 08–11 — That the NCAA Championships, first staged 101 years ago in 1921, is always a splendid competition to behold is a given. That edition No. 100* for men and No. 40 to include women would rate as a great one was largely anticipated.

(* In 1924 the meet was not held to avoid an Olympic Trials conflict; no one reading this forgets the 2020 cancellation due to the C19 pandemic.)

The stage had been set over a slam-bang spring in which 8 Collegiate Records were toppled — 5 on the men’s side and 3 on the women’s. Standards in the men’s 1500, 5000, 4×4, discus and decathlon (twice) were bettered. Women rolled over records in the 200, 4×4 and hammer (twice), as bests in the 4 x 1500 and sprint medley, not contested in the Championships, also went down.

Prolific rewriting of the all-time collegiate lists all but guaranteed we’d witness explosions at the second NCAA in Oregon’s reinvented Hayward Field.

That’s how it went down, as a treasure trove of just… Wow! The first two days of 6 finals each for men and women and tension-building semis battles lit twin fuses for a pair of finals days which annually deliver eye-popping exploits, surprises, shocks and upsets back-to-back-to-back over little more than 2 hours.

The men’s meet climaxed fittingly as Florida’s 4×4 squad ripped a meet record 2:58.88 as capper on a team victory that shredded the formchart. The Gator women’s win made Florida just the fourth school to capture both titles in the same year.

The day before the Gainesville crew’s men’s triumph, Arkansas’s Ayden Owens-Delerme had equaled the decathlon MR in a 3-way tussle 10-eventer that played out as — our coverage leads with the observation — one for the recordbooks.

Also on Friday, Florida State senior Trey Cunningham at last found his way to the 110H title with a 13.00 blinder that took the world lead. For the better part of 48 hours anyway until the NYC Grand Prix.

Women cracked 4 Collegiate Records. First, on Thursday afternoon, Cal’s Camryn Rogers upped the hammer standard for a fourth time. Hours later Ohio State’s Adelaide Aquilla added 7 inches (18cm) to the shot put best.

That same day Kentucky junior Abby Steiner dropped jaws with a 22.02 =MR in the 200 semis hard on the heels of a 10.90 in the 100 just an hour prior. And her century clocking was just the second 10.90 within minutes after Julien Alfred’s.

But that wasn’t all, folks. Steiner had more in store for Saturday. Just not before BYU senior Courtney Wayment obliterated the steeple CR while rain fell. Is any event better suited for wet stuff from the sky?

Julien Alfred and home fave Duck Kemba Nelson got the better of Steiner in the 100, and then came the Wildcat’s boggler: a 21.80 runaway from LSU soph Favour Ofili, setter of the previous CR, 21.96, in April.

Surely Steiner reigned as athlete of the meet. Three-quarters of an hour later running third leg in the 4×4, she came from some 25m down to the lead with a spectacular 48.92 split, inferior in meet history only to Athing Mu’s 48.84 last year.

Be sure to read our reports on all the events. For now just consider Steiner’s full slate: on Thursday 4×1 anchor, 10.90 & 22.02 within 3¾ hours. Saturday 4×1 anchor (Kentucky 3rd), 11.08, 21.80, 48.92r inside roughly 2:20.

Double wins in addition to Steiner’s went to Florida soph Joe Fahnbulleh (100 & 200) among the men, and in the women’s meet to Alfred (100 & 4×1) and Florida’s Jasmine Moore (long & triple jumps to match her double indoors).

Dear devotees of DLs, major invitationals and even global championships on foreign shores, respectfully, you don’t know what you’re missing in a thrill-a-minute sense. Even spectators walked out of these NCAA sessions with adrenaline tanks depleted.

The announced attendance of 35,337 (8466/8451/9258/9162) easily outdid 2020’s more pandemic-constrained 22,444.