NCAA Men’s 110H — Luff First Cornhusker Titlist

In his fourth appearance at the NCAA Darius Luff hurdled to victory and a top-10 spot on the collegiate ATL. (MIKE SCOTT)

NOT MANY 18-YEAR-OLDS are favored to win their first NCAA race, but that was the case for Auburn frosh Ja’Kobe Tharp.

The young man had not lost an outdoor high hurdle race since his sophomore year in high school in Tennessee. His profile really soared when he ran 13.18 to win the SEC, breaking the American Junior Record set 46 years earlier by none other than Renaldo Nehemiah.

He equaled that time in winning semi I. The other heat winners were two seniors, Darius Luff of Nebraska and De’Vion Wilson of Houston. They had the next-best résumés in the country — Luff had won Drake and the Big 10 and had run 13.25; Wilson (13.24) had won Penn and the Big 12.

Fittingly, the three took the blocks shoulder to shoulder for the final, Tharp in lane 5 flanked by Wilson in 4, Luff in 6.

Tharp, a slow starter who makes his way through the field, hammered the second hurdle, and suddenly Luff and Wilson were pulling away. Wilson appeared to be gaining on Luff until he smacked the 8th barrier, fell back and Tharp swept by, but there was no catching Luff, who outleaned the youngster to win by a 100th in a PR 13.19.

“I don’t remember much from it, honestly,” the ponytailed Luff said afterward. “It all happened in the blink of an eye.”

“I’m just proud of the time and proud of the execution.”

A hometown boy at Nebraska — he attended Lincoln High School — the 23-year-old Luff showed gradual improvement and determination through his four years as a Cornhusker.

“I’ve gotten beat over the years,” he said, “so after each season my coaches would go over what I needed to work on for the next year.” He was eliminated in the semis in ’21 and ’22, then placed 6th a year ago.

In the final, when Wilson faltered, others quickly took advantage, both with PRs. Ja’Qualon Scott of Texas A&M took 3rd in 13.27, frosh Malachi Snow of San José State 4th in 13.33.

For Nebraska lore, Luff becomes the first Cornhusker to win the NCAA highs, but not their first champion hurdler. Their previous highest finisher in the highs was the Jamaican Olympian Keith Gardner, who finished 2nd in ’58. Their other hurdles champion was Miles Ukaoma, winner of the intermediates a decade ago.


FINAL (June 07; wins +0.1)

1. Darius Luff (Nb) 13.19 PR (=9, x C);

2. ***Ja’Kobe Tharp (Aub) 13.20 (x, 4 WJ; x, 3 AJ);

3. *Ja’Qualon Scott (TxAM) 13.27 PR;

4. ***Malachi Snow (SJSt) 13.33 PR;

5. De’Vion Wilson (Hous) 13.36;

6. *Samuel Bennett’ (How-GB) 13.45 PR;

7. **Jerome Campbell’ (NnCo-Jam) 13.49;

8. **Matthew Sophia’ (LSU-Neth) 13.53;

9. *Johnny Brackins (USC) 13.63.

HEATS (June 05)

I(0.2)–1. Tharp 13.18 =AJR (=AJR Tharp ’24) (=2, =2 WJ);

2. Brackins 13.37 PR; 3. Sophia’ 13.37 PR; 4. Campbell’ 13.44; 5. Ahmad Young (Ms) 13.46 PR; 6. *Darius Brown (DeP) 13.52 PR; 7. Brahmir Vick (Navy) 13.66; 8. Phillip Lemonious’ (Ar-Jam) 13.78.

II(1.0)–1. Luff 13.31; 2. Scott 13.37; 3. *John Adesola’ (NOrleans-SA) 13.56 PR; 4. **Tyson Williams (FlSt) 13.66; 5. **Jason Holmes (NCAT) 13.71; 6. **Giovanni Wearing (Wi) 13.76; 7. **Jahiem Stern’ (LSU-Jam) 14.39;… dq—Elijah Morris (Ar).

III(-0.4)–1. Wilson 13.34; 2. Snow 13.44; 3. Bennett’ 13.46 PR; 4. **Demaris Waters (SJSt) 13.49; 5. **Thomas Smith (NCAT) 13.57 PR; 6. *Jayden Smith (David) 13.57; 7. *Luke Laubacher (Young) 13.86; 8. *Jordani Woodley’ (UTEP-Jam) 13.88.