All season long our women’s formchart had been a wild & crazy thing, with multiple permutations at the top. Our 6 iterations in April and May, sequentially, had these as the predicted top 2 finishers: Arkansas/USC; USC/Georgia; Georgia/USC; Oregon/USC; USC/Georgia; Georgia/USC. The last of those, post-Regionals, gave the Bulldogs 53 points and the Trojans 51. That tight 2-point margin turned into a single digit, and in reverse order as USC won 53–52.
And Stanford, never better than No. 5 on the chart, overperformed in taking 3rd, just a point behind Georgia. The Cardinal in particular had several gut-wrenching moments as the meet wore down, with Valarie Allman going from 1st to 3rd in the last 3 throws of the discus and Vanessa Fraser fading from 1st to 4th on the last half-lap of the 5000.
Meanwhile, the speed-oriented USC crew had put up a pair of scorers in both the 100 & 200, another in the 400 and one more in the 400H in addition to the 4×1. So going into the climactic (and what a climax it would be!) 4×4 the SoCal bunch had 43 points. Georgia and Stanford had 52 and 51, but no baton squads. USC had been favored until losing Kaelin Roberts after the Regionals and a lessened squad had a simple task: win to win. They won, in stunning fashion.
Said USC head Caryl Smith Gilbert after the jaw-dropping finale, “We had this goal. I knew that we had trained for this very moment. We talk about mental toughness all the time. We talk about how to finish. One major theme that I have been focusing on this year is that it doesn’t have to be perfect to still get it done. I did that because sometimes in this generation if it’s not going exactly the way they think it should be, we don’t give 100%. I’ve been telling them that life doesn’t have to be perfect. Things can go adversely, but you can still be successful. You can still get to your outcome if everything along the way isn’t perfect.”
2018 NCAA WOMEN’S TEAM SCORES
(8 places scored 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1)
1. USC 53; 2. Georgia 52; 3. Stanford 51; 4. Kentucky 46; 5. Florida 42; 6. LSU 41; 7. Oregon 39; 8. Purdue 34; 9. Arizona State 22; 10. Virginia Tech 21½;
11. tie, Arkansas & Missouri 20; 13. Iowa 19; 14. tie, Florida State & UCLA 18; 16. Auburn 17; 17. tie, Kansas State & New Mexico 16; 19. Texas A&M 15;
20. tie, Mississippi & Northern Arizona 14; 22. tie, Kansas & Wisconsin 12; 24. Penn State 11½; 25. tie, Boise State & Tennessee 11; 27. UT Arlington 10;
28. tie, Furman, Harvard, Louisville, Middle Tennessee State, North Dakota State & Oklahoma 8; 34. tie, Cincinnati, Texas & UC Davis 7; 37. tie, Colorado & Syracuse 6;
39. Air Force 5½; 40. tie, Michigan, UMBC & Villanova 5; 43. Virginia 4½; 44. tie, USF & Washington 4;
46. tie, Akron, Alabama, Arkansas State, Portland, Norfolk State, Notre Dame, San Diego State, Texas Tech, Utah, Washington State & 3;
56. tie, New Hampshire, Memphis, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Princeton, South Carolina 2; 63. tie, Baylor, Michigan State, Utah State & West Virginia 1; 67. tie, BYU & Nebraska–Omaha ½. □