NCAA Women’s 4×1 — First Relay Crown For Ole Miss

After McKenzie Long grabbed the lead for good on the backstretch, Jahniya Bowers (6) carried the baton home in front. (MIKE SCOTT)

IN THE INITIAL RUNNING EVENT on sun-filled Day 4, the crucial-for-team-points 4×1, four quartets stood out. Ole Miss had moved to No. 5 school all-time with 42.22 in the semis. Arkansas ran 42.45 to become #9 school ever and LSU (42.63) had frosh phenom Tima Godbless on the anchor. Not to be ignored was always-dangerous South Carolina (42.66) anchored by super-frosh JaMeesia Ford.

As the sprinters set their blocks you could feel the electricity as sectors of loyal fans shouted out encouragement to their collegiate favorites.

At the crack of the gun Baylor got out quickly — an advantage that the Bears momentarily held as the field swung onto the backstretch for the first exchange.

But then Ole Miss took over. Mississippi senior McKenzie Long blitzed the backstretch to give her squad a lead that they never relinquished.

In the third leg Mississippi soph Gabrielle Matthews tore around the curve and served up a textbook pass to Jahniya Bowers. It was all the anchor needed as she easily powered to the line, crossing in 42.34 and sealing the Ole Miss win with LSU (2nd in 42.54) and South Carolina (3rd in 42.63) in her wake.

Later in the mixed zone Ole Miss leadoff Akilah Lewis shared thoughts. “I really wasn’t nervous, our coaches were like, ‘Don’t make this meet bigger than it is,’” said Lewis. “I’ve run a couple of first legs before, I’m accustomed to being in front of big crowds and performing at a high level.”

Senior Lewis took time to lay out how the quartet got into the right frame of mind. “I told them ‘Let’s get it. We have something to prove at this meet.’ I feel like in a sense, we’ve kind of been the underdogs all season because there are schools that have done this before.”

Lewis added, “I mean, honestly, I know we could have run faster because we’ve had better exchanges in the past. I knew once we got the stick around, we would win. We have the best team, the best chemistry, so I know winning was the only option.”

This was Mississippi’s first 4×1 title. “We’ve been looking forward all year for this,” Lewis concluded, “and we knew that the job wouldn’t be complete until we won. So it’s really satisfying to go in and execute.”


FINAL (June 08)

1. Mississippi 42.34 (Lewis, Long, Matthews’, Bowers);

2. LSU 42.57 (Lyston’, Davies, Phillips, Godbless’);

3. South Carolina 42.63 (Jamison, James, Akins, Ford);

4. Arkansas 42.71 (Linton, Effiong, Brown, Anning’);

5. Texas Tech 42.87 (Clark, Umukoro’, Colbert, Chukwuma’);

6. Baylor 42.98 (Kelley, Hunt, Brown’, Francois’);

7. Texas 43.06 (Bernard’, Kev. Davis’, Ken. Davis, Oakley’);

8. Oregon 43.11 (Jones, Mays, Hall, Clayton);

9. Clemson 43.38 (Stoilova’, Van der Merwe’, Myrie’, Foreman’).

SEMIS (June 06)

I–1. Mississippi 42.22 (#5 school);

2. Texas Tech 42.95; 3. Oregon 43.02; 4. Penn 43.88; 5. Mississippi State 43.96; 6. Howard 44.13; 7. Minnesota 44.33;… dnc—Georgia.

II–1. Arkansas 42.45 (#9 school);

2. South Carolina 42.66; 3. Texas 42.97; 4. Clemson 43.26; 5. Texas A&M 43.54; 6. Illinois 43.71; 7. Alabama 43.76; 8. UNLV 44.09.

III–1. LSU 42.63; 2. Baylor 43.34; 3. Ohio State 43.38; 4. TCU 43.39; 5. Southern Mississippi 43.82; 6. Charlotte 43.88; 7. Texas State 44.03; 8. San Diego State 44.23.