NCAA Championships — Finale Fit For A Banner Year

Texas’s ginormous football stadium has not housed a track since 1999 but its scoreboard welcomed tracksters. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

AUSTIN, TEXAS, June 07–10 — Athletes had knocked down absolute Collegiate Records 12 times* in the months leading up to this 101st NCAA Championships, the all-time lists had undergone serious rewriting, and thus chops were licked in anticipation of what feats might go down at Mike A. Myers Stadium.

(*=includes multiple CR raisings by Jaydon Hibbert, Britton Wilson and the Texas women’s 4×1. Count does not include four women’s CRs in events not contested at the outdoor Champs.)

On that score, no fan left hungry. There isn’t a spectacle in the sport quite like the NCAA and this one in hot, humid conditions — which stayed bearable, though trying, over the 4 days — in the state capital lived up to the amped-up season that had preceded it.

Two CRs toppled in the meet’s first two days — pleasing the local crowd. Longhorn Leo Neugebauer spectacularly added 116 points to the deca record to dominate a duel with defending champ and former CR-holder Kyle Garland of Georgia.

In the women’s 4×1 heats, the Texas women’s squad put up a monster time, 41.55, cutting 0.34 from their own record set earlier in the year.

The Florida men’s 4×4 punctuated a Gator team win on Day 3 — one of men’s finals — by cutting 0.02 from the CR coach Mike Holloway’s relay men set at the SEC.

On Day 4, Longhorn coach Edrick Floréal’s 4×1 women got their final-session rush to the team title started with a 41.60 near-miss at another record.

Around these marks, all-time lists — especially when all-conditions compilations are considered — were battered and improved.

Four outright Meet Records were set: by Neugebauer, Longhorn women’s 400 star by way of Ireland Rhasidat Adeleke, Florida’s Jasmine Moore in the triple jump and Oregon’s Jorinde van Klinken in the discus. Hibbert’s opening bounces in the men’s triple jump added up to a low-altitude Champs record; there’s a precocious youngster who gets his competitive licks in early and efficiently.

Our by-event reports that follow highlight how close so many clashes were — e.g., 3 within 0.02 in the men’s 100, three-quarters of an inch in the women’s long jump where runner-up Stanford frosh Alyssa Jones set an American Junior Record.

As the men’s and women’s 1500 fields hit the last homestretch, there was no telling — zero — who’d get to the line first. Fun stuff!

If blowouts, not necessarily anticipated, are your jam, the meet had those too — e.g., Georgia frosh Will Sumner bettering his pre-meet 800 best by 1.94 to win by just shy of a second and a half. Texas women’s all-worlder Julien Alfred took each of her two sprint crowns by 0.15. Her teammate Adeleke trouncing CR woman Wilson in the flat lap by close to half-a-second was hardly foreseen by most.

Nor were tow afterburners-lit last 800s for men’s distance double distance winner Ky Robinson of Stanford.

And again a nail that T&FN hammers because it’s needed: presentation at this meet lagged far below athlete performance. The stadium announcing crew worked hard and admirably, even as info flow on some field events faded to near-blackout conditions.

Rarely has a video screen/scoreboard been so poorly utilized. Mostly we saw the same video folks at home were watching on ESPN. The scoreboard function of the apparatus went nigh on ignored. In one sprint finish involving the home team, just the results of the first 3 were flashed up — and “flashed” is the correct description — before a fast cut back to the video feed.

The rationale may be that every butt-in-seat who cares now has a phone at hand for looking up results. Sure, but this writer begs to disagree that constant eyeballing/clicking/scrolling with the handheld is satisfactory while also trying to stay on top of a fast-unfolding big picture. Just a guess: Texas football fans get a useful scoreboard.

The tickets-sold total (not to be confused with larger bodies-in-the-building counts) of 27,139 (5741/5721/8247/7430) was up from the ’19 Texas figure of 20,508 and larger than last year’s Oregon number of 20,789.

The meet returns to Eugene next year for the start of a 4-year run, with the ’28 edition not yet awarded.