ARIZONA STATE, FLORIDA STATE CLAIM 2007 NCAA TRACK & FIELD TEAM TITLES
With the women’s team title securely in hand, Arizona State coach Greg Kraft said there was no way he was going to let his athletes give him a traditional victory shower.
“It would have to be one of our throwers, and they’re too tired to bother,” Kraft said.
It was one of the few times Kraft sold his women short. As the team celebrated on the victory stand Saturday, ASU discus thrower Tai Battle surreptitiously produced a cooler of ice-cold water and dumped it over her coach’s head.
It was a fitting conclusion to an extraordinary NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium. Saturday’s two-hour finale featured a dizzying succession of world-class races, from Alysia Johnson’s epic duel with Katie Erdman in the women’s 800 meters to Walter Dix’s third sprint title to Baylor’s tour de force in the men’s 4 x 400 relay.
“This is truly one of the outstanding events in the world of track and field,” Kraft said.
Arizona State won the women’s team title with 60 points, finishing in front of LSU (53) and Michigan (34). With Dix (200) and Ricardo Chambers (400) winning their events Saturday, Florida State successfully defended its men’s title with 54 points. LSU was second with 48 points, followed by Auburn in third with 34 points.
Dix won the 200 meters in 20.32 seconds to become the first male sprinter since John Carlos in 1969 to win the 100, 200 and 4 x 100 relay at the same NCAA Championships. Fifteen minutes earlier, Chambers won a terrific 400 battle against USC’s Lionel Larry. Chambers won in 44.66 with Larry inches behind in 44.68.
“It’s a big relief,” said Florida State coach Bob Bramen. “It’s really hard to repeat.”
The women’s 800 was one of the most anticipated races of the meet, and it exceeded expectations. Johnson, a Cal junior who won the NCAA indoor title in March, set a torrid pace, passing the 400-meter mark in 57.34. Johnson led the field by several meters entering the homestretch but was nearly passed at the wire by Michigan’s Erdman.
Johnson’s winning time of 1:59.29 was the second fastest in collegiate history, trailing only the 1:59.11 run by Wisconsin’s Suzy Favor in winning the 1990 NCAA title. Erdman moved to third on the all-time collegiate list at 1:59.35. Both women cut nearly two seconds off their personal bests.
“I felt very comfortable with the pace,” Johnson said. “If I needed to take it wire to wire, then that’s what I was going to do.”
Erdman said she thought she could overhaul Johnson before the finish line.
“I wasn’t happy to be second, but I’m happy with that time,” Erdman said. “I got as close as I could.”
The men’s 1,500 meters featured the last two NCAA champions in Leonel Manzano of Texas (2005) and Vincent Romo of South Alabama (2006). After a brisk early pace, Manzano opened up a small lead over Northern Arizona’s Lopez Lomong on the final curve.
But Lomong, the NCAA indoor champion at 3,000 meters, had a slightly better kick, winning in a lifetime-best 3:37.07. Manzano was second in 3:37.48 as two others broke 3:38 – Rono (3:37.56) and Stanford’s Russell Brown (3:37.96). It was the deepest 1,500 in NCAA meet history.
Lomong collapsed in joy before springing to his feet and saluting the crowd of 10,165.
“These are great fans,” Lomong said. “They went bananas. It’s awesome to be a part of this.”
Arizona State’s women clinched the team title with a 1-3 finish by Jessica Pressley and Sarah Stevens in the shot put. Pressley, a graduate of Laguna Creek High School in nearby Elk Grove, bounced back from disappointing efforts in the discus and hammer to put the shot a winning distance of 59-0_.
“To come out and win a national championship in front of my home crowd, it’s an awesome feeling,” Pressley said.
South Carolina’s Natasha Hastings won the women’s 400 meters in a rout, clocking 50.15, the fastest collegiate time of the year. Penn State’s Shana Cox was second in 51.27.
LSU won the final race of the four-day meet, the women’s 4 x 400 relay. Sacramento native Deonna Lawrence anchored the Lady Tigers to victory in 3:28.07. Baylor won the men’s 4 x 400 relay in 3:00.04.
In other events Saturday:
- Hampton’s Yvette Lewis won the triple jump on her sixth and final attempt, passing Stanford’s Erica McLain with a leap of 45-0_;
- Purdue’s Lindsey Blaine won the women’s javelin with a throw of 182-3;
- Noah Bryant of USC won the men’s shot put by more than a foot with a throw of 65-9;
- Cornell’s Ray Taylor won the men’s triple jump with a mark of 53-8_;
- Auburn’s Kerron Stewart won the women’s 200 meters in 22.42;
- UCLA’s Nicole Leach pulled away in the homestretch to win the women’s 400 hurdles in 54.32;
- North Carolina’s Brie Felnagle won the women’s 1,500 in 4:09.93, the fastest collegiate time of the year;
- Michigan’s Andrew Ellerton won the men’s 800 in 1:47.48 as defending champion Ryan Brown of Washington placed third; and
- LSU’s Isa Phillips posted a collegiate leader in the men’s 400 hurdles, clocking 48.51.
Story by Bob Burns
Pictures by Kirby Lee