2018 NCAA Championships — Just Singin’ In The Rain

The last 2 days of the NCAA had two settings: rainy & rainier, but you wouldn’t know it by the performances the athletes put up. (ERROL ANDERSON/THE SPORTING IMAGE)

Eugene, Oregon, June 06–09—It was an NCAA Championships to remember, appropriate since its venue, Historic Hayward Field, the recordholder for hostings at 16, including the last 6 in a row, has showcased more NCAA title meet memories than any other stadium and in the next few months will exist no more in its familiar shape and form.

Last year’s Nationals had featured some liquid sunshine (no great surprise given the time of year and Pacific Northwest location), 3 Collegiate Records and 4 Meet Records. This final Hayward affair exceeded that: more rain, with the Saturday women’s final session a buckets-of-wet-what-time-does-the-backstroke-start? kinda spectacle.

But despite that 4 CRs, all on the men’s side for which the weather on the finals day was friendlier—from Michael Norman, Rai Benjamin, the Houston 4×1 and USC’s 4×4.

And 5 MRs in addition to these from athletes of both genders—set by vaulter Chris Nilsen, javelinist Anderson Peters, Lynna Irby in the 400, Sharon Lokedi in the 10,000 (the meet best she exceeded having survived for 30 years) and LSU’s women’s 4×1. Aleia Hobbs, anchor on the Tiger relay, also got a low-altitude MR, the No. 2 clocking in meet history, in her 100 semi.

The team-scoring wars, men’s and women’s, made for entertainment of the highest order, had fans updating scoring charts furiously calculating possible paths to victory for several teams deep into the final sessions, and spurred deep digs for precious points from winners Georgia and USC. The women’s title tussle, in particular, was magical in this regard. And not just because the outcome was determined through a high-drama 4×4. The discus, the latest-finishing field event, and the 5000, last running discipline before the relay, both riveted attention as they afforded opportunities for very different team results up to their very last moments.

The team scoring dimension sets collegiate track apart, and the format of separate competition days for men and women continues to deliver a superior fan experience for full immersion in it.

Winning athletes credited the “Hayward Field magic,” the Oregon faithful fans and out-of-town track nuts alike soaked up the venue’s vintage, you-can-feel-the-history atmosphere for one last time, and one and all wondered what the new Phil Knight-sponsored future Hayward will have in store the next time the collegiate title meet lands in Eugene (currently scheduled for the 100th Anniversary affair after 2 years in Texas).

More magic, one suspects, but it won’t be the same.

Plus ça change.


Men competed on 06-07-08, women on 07-08-09—

Attendance: 9767/9702/11,644/12,998—44,111

Weather: Wednesday—high 75; Thursday: high 66; Friday—high 59, overcast, intermittent rain; Saturday—high 52; overcast with intermittent rain (very heavy at times), and hail.

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