The 11 Best Moments Of Super-Conference Weekend

Back in our June ’03 edition we coined the phrase “Super Conference Weekend” to describe the intense weekend of collegiate competition 2 weeks before the NCAA Regionals, which debuted that year.

We called it “the greatest concentration of hot collegiate conference action ever.”

That title probably now belongs to the ’18 version, which brought thrill after thrill. Some people choose top 10s for something like this, but our thrill-meter goes to a Spinal-Tappish 11, topped by a trio of Collegiate Records at the SEC:

1. LSU’s Collegiate Record 42.05

With Aleia Hobbs (10.85), Kortnei Johnson (10.97w/11.12), Mikiah Brisco (10.96) and Rachel Misher (11.21)—not to mention Cassondra Hall (11.21) in reserve—we all knew that Dennis Shaver’s Bengals were primed to take down the Collegiate Record they shared with Oregon at 42.12 from last year. And while 42.05 is appropriately stunning, the NCAA Championships could easily see this foursome dive under 42-seconds.

Aleia Hobbs put the finishing touches on LSU’s 4×1 CR. (SHAWN PRICE)

For an all-American squad, that’s territory that previously had only been entered by national teams and elite pro foursomes.

Hobbs also shined individually, winning the 100 in a list-leading 10.92 that rates as the =No. 3 collegiate time ever.

2. Sydney McLaughlin’s Collegiate—& World Junior—Record 52.75

Sydney McLaughlin continued to amaze, adding yet again to her record collection. (SHAWN PRICE)

Suddenly, Syd The Kid and her collection of 400H records are 0.85 faster—and only 0.41 behind the World Record. And the overall big-girl World Record is looking very vulnerable. That’s partly because—in stat-nerd terms—the event lacks an outlier.

Look at it this way: in the men’s 400 there are only two other athletes within 0.41 of Wayde van Niekerk’s 43.03. In the men’s 400H, there are only three others within 0.41 of Kevin Young’s 46.78. In the women’s 400, there is only one other athlete within 0.41 of Marita Koch’s 47.60.

But in the women’s 400H, there are now 9 athletes within 0.41 of Yuliya Pechonkina’s 52.34. That crazy logjam at the top of the all-time list means the event is still waiting for the outlier who takes the record down to the 51s where it belongs. And it’s hard to argue that that women is not going to be McLaughlin… maybe in Eugene in June.

3. Keturah Orji’s Collegiate Record 47-11¾

It was a strange kind of weekend for Georgia’s senior super-jumper, as she ended up improving on her Collegiate Record but at the same time lost her American Record. Huh?

Let’s back up: Orji had a great Saturday, upping her long jump PR to a collegiate-leading 22-4¼ (6.81) that moved her to =No. 9 American collegian ever). Problem is, some 2000M to the southeast, Tori Franklin (see story) was triple jumping 48-8¼ (14.84) and ending Orji’s reign as the American Record holder.

Orji bounced back like a champ the next day, however, producing a trio of 47-footers (2 of them windy), the best of which raised her Collegiate Record from 47-8 (14.53) to 47‑11¾ (14.62).

4. Michael Norman’s 19.84w/44.40 Double

Michael Norman put up an eye-opening long-sprint double at the Pac-12. (DON GOSNEY)

The USC soph produced another incredible weekend. His 400 dominated by 1.80. Then he came back to win the 200 by a stunning 0.42. “I feel a little bit bummed about the wind, but I can’t be too bummed,” he said.

There will be more to come, but not in the doubling department, where the 2 and 4 are simply too close together. For Nationals, he says, he will most likely run only the 400 (see video interview).

5. That SEC Men’s 400

A faster 1-lap race than the Pac-12’s came in Knoxville, where Auburn’s Nathon Allen blitzed a 44.28 to stay just barely ahead of Nathan Strother of Tennessee (44.34) for the SEC win. For Strother, who has sub-44 relay credentials, it was his first trip under 45-seconds.

Said Allen, “I came out with the intention of doing the best that I could. Today is Mother’s Day, so it was nice to call my mom and tell her I won for her on her day.”

So how good will the NCAA 400 be? Allen is now No. 5 on the all-time collegiate list, Strother =No. 8 and Norman No. 11.

6. Kendall Ellis’s 49.99

The men weren’t the only ones cranking out all-time list material in the 1-lapper. The USC senior moved to No. 2 on the all-time collegiate women’s compilation with her first-ever sub-50 (and only second by a collegian) giving her a Pac-12 victory over surprising Makenzie Dunmore.

This came on a busy 4-event weekend for Ellis, as she also placed 4th in the 200 (22.74w) and ran on two winning relays. “I’m so, so happy,” she said.

Oregon’s Dunmore deserves a shout-out as well. She won the 200 in 22.37w after a 22.53 heat, and her runner-up time to Ellis is a substantial 50.63 (after a 50.99 heat). Her PR before the weekend was 51.42.

7. Isaiah Harris’s 1:45.31

The Penn State junior came close to his PR of 1:45.12 in winning the Big 10 title by 0.75 over Indiana’s Daniel Kuhn. A U.S.-leading race in the lead-up to Nationals still won’t put him in the favorite’s position against CR-holder Michael Saruni, but it promises to make the race very interesting from Harris’s standpoint

8. Yup, More Grant Holloway

It may only have been a mere 0.01 improvement on his PR, but an SEC 13.15 meant a lot to the Gator soph. It broke the 13.22 meet record held by Aries Merritt, for one. Now the only target ahead of him on the collegiate all-time list is Renaldo Nehemiah’s legendary 13.00. This came the day after he rode the wind to a 27-3¾ (8.32) long jump victory—and also scored a legal PR 26-9¾ (8.17).

9. Maggie Ewen’s Triple

The Arizona State senior showed she is ready for anything this season. She pulled off big Pac-12 wins in the shot (63-¾/19.22—equaling the No. 5 collegiate throw ever), the discus (196-3/59.81—beating Valarie Allman by a foot) and the hammer (244-0/74.38—the No. 2 collegiate throw ever).

Now for a tougher task: multiple NCAA wins. She’d like all 3, but only once (Meg Ritchie ’82) has ever won even 2 of those. Last year she claimed 6th-2nd-1st.

10. Rai Benjamin’s 48.46

The USC junior showed what his 44.74 flat PR can translate to over hurdles, winning the Pac-12 title by a whopping 1.83. That puts him awfully close to the 48.33 PR he ran in placing 2nd at NCAAs last year. This year, it might mean that sub-48 is beckoning.

11. Erin Finn’s Big Big 10 Win

Typically, we don’t see a lot of big distance races at the Conference level. We see important races, true, but they usually boil down to tactics between athletes who are doubling and tripling to maximize team points.

Michigan senior Finn, though, wasn’t having any of that. In hot, humid Bloomington conditions, she tore through the first half of the 10,000 in a mind-boggling 15:52, lapping most of the field. She paid a big price in the later stages, wobbling through a last lap that was painful to watch, her eyes pointed to the sky in a valiant effort to stay on her feet. She crossed in 32:45.51, just missing her own meet record in grabbing her 10th Big 10 title.

A few days later she was making fun of her finishing posture on Twitter: “Introducing the human Pez dispenser, coming now with enough candy for all!”

One thing’s for sure: if anyone else wants to win the NCAA 10K title this year, Finn’s going to throw everything at them.