FOR AN ATHLETE moving up a level—or two—finding one’s personal sweet spot can take time. There’s no better time to lock into it than at a championships. That’s exactly what Wadeline Jonathas did, with a stretch run no competitor could match. A transfer from UMass Boston who won 9 NCAA III titles before her move up this year, Jonathas became South Carolina’s first winner in the event since Natasha Hastings in ’07.
Having come into the year with a 52.81 PR that earned her the ’17 Div. III win, Jonathas progressed steadily from 52.86 indoors in February to 51.19 at the SEC in May. That put the 21-year-old junior, who emigrated from Haiti to New England in ’09, as the No. 4 collegiate—and SEC—quartermiler on the year list, behind Florida’s Sharrika Barnett, Kethlin Campbell of Arkansas and Syaira Richardson of Texas A&M.
The semis winners were Jonathas (51.63 looking relaxed), Gamecock teammate Aliyah Abrams (51.51) and Barnett (51.62), top returner from the ’18 final, as Pac-12ers Kyra Constantine of USC and Hannah Waller of Oregon advanced to what but for them would have been an all-SEC final. Waller teammate Briyahna Desrosiers ran 52.00 to earn the distinction of being the meet’s fastest non-qualifier ever. In the reshuffle of our formchart after the semis, Barnett and Jonathas jumped ahead of premeet favorite Campbell, albeit with zero sense of inevitability about the outcome.
For the 6:32pm final no shadow from the backstretch stands as yet blocked a sun that had baked the oval in mid-90s heat for hours. Waller (23.9 in lane 9) and Barnett (24.0 in 6) were first to strike with heat of their own. As Waller lost ground in the curve, Barnett, the only runner with a sub-51 on the year (50.96), powered on, yet by 300m (36.6 for the Gator senior) the field was closing in. Jonathas (lane 4), Abrams (5) and Abbott (7), the SEC 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-placers, reached the mark next, all 0.4 or more behind.
That’s when Jonathas found her gear. 90m out she moved to solo 2nd. With 75m left she led. The rest of the homestretch belonged to the tall-striding Gamecock with close-cropped, gold-dyed hair. She ran home in 50.60, 2½ meters in front. A step out from the line, Abbott caught Barnett and as the pair leaned in unison the Kentucky junior grabbed 2nd, 50.98–51.00. Campbell in lane 8 leaned too, snatching 4th from Abrams, 51.09–51.13.
Said the winner, “I asked God [for a boost in the straight], and I was looking at my mom [who led Jonathas and her 5 siblings to the U.S. for a better life], the training, everything that had to be put together for me to be here. I mean, they brought me here for a reason, so I just did His will, and I’m thankful. This is a dream come true. I really wanted to win. I wasn’t able to sleep last night thinking about how I’m going to be able to win this. I’ve played this out a million times in my head, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen like that. I don’t know. I’m just thankful to my coach, and I love everyone who supported me, especially my coaches and family. I don’t know, I just knew I had it in me, and if you want something bad, you have to go out and get it.”
NCAA WOMEN’S 400 RESULTS
1. *Wadeline Jonathas (SC) 50.60 PR (13.6);
2. *Chloe Abbott (Ky) 50.98 PR (13.9);
3. Sharrika Barnett (Fl) 51.00 (14.4);
4. **Kethlin Campbell (Ar) 51.09 (13.9);
5. *Aliyah Abrams’ (SC) 51.13 PR (14.1);
6. *Kyra Constantine’ (USC) 51.47 (13.9);
7. **Syaira Richardson (TxAM) 51.98 (14.4);
8. *Hannah Waller (Or) 52.47 (15.4).
(best-ever mark-for-NCAA-place: 5)
I–1. Abrams’ 51.51 PR; 2. Abbott 51.59; 3. Richardson 51.60; 4. Waller 51.99; 5. *Serenity Douglas (Tx) 53.25; 6. Tatum Waggoner (Az) 53.59; 7. Sarah Moore (GM) 53.60; 8. *Meleni Rodney’ (UCLA) 53.83.
II–1. Jonathas 51.63; 2. Constantine’ 51.71; 3. Venessa D’Arpino (Or) 52.50; 4. *Natassha McDonald’ (Al) 52.75; 5. Kat Surin’ (Ct) 53.02; 6. **Taylor Manson (Fl) 53.75; 7. *Katie Funcheon (Al) 54.18; 8. Zola Golden (Tx) 55.74.
III–1. Barnett 51.62; 2. Campbell 51.95; 3. Briyahna Desrosiers (Or) 52.00 (fastest non-Q ever); 4. ***Tierra Robinson-Jones (TxAM) 52.92; 5. *Tori Ray (NCAT) 53.15; 6. *Brittny Ellis (Mia) 53.29; 7. **Uchechi Nwogwugwu (Penn) 53.49; 8. *Aaliyah Birmingham (OkSt) 55.52.