Drake Relays Outstanding Performer Ross Among 15 Champs Competing At NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track & Field Championships
Feature photo: Rebeka Topham-Griswold-Wichita State ©Jim Kirby-2016
AUSTIN, TEXAS – Fifteen Drake Relays champions, led by double winners Faith Ross of Kentucky and Amira Young of Minnesota, will be performing in the NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships that start Thursday at Mike A. Meyers Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas.
Ross was named the outstanding women’s performer of the Drake Relays after becoming the third collegian to sweep the 400 and 100-meter hurdles and first since 2004. Ross raced to a 58.21 time to win the women’s university-college 400 hurdles marking the first Drake Relays victory for Kentucky since 1988. She returned Saturday to win the 100 hurdles by pulling away over the last half of the race to finish in 13.30 and edge Iowa’s Jenny Kimbro, a three-time Big Ten indoor champion. Ross
Young, a freshman, won both the university-college 100 and 200 in her Drake Relays debut.
Ross, a three-time NCAA All-American, will run in both the 100 and 400 hurdles at the NCAA meet, while Young has qualified in the 100.
Kentucky, making its first appearance at the Drake Relays in more than 30 years, won five women’s titles at the 110thrunning of America’s Athletic Classic. The Wildcats, under the guidance of first year coach Lonnie Green, has 11 event entries tied for fifth most in the women’s division.
Kentucky, ranked No. 9 in the latest track and field poll, has finished in the top five at NCAA outdoors three of the last four years and was fourth with 46 points last year.
The Iowa women, which won the Drake Relays Hy-Vee Cup for the first time, has four athletes competing at the NCAA Championships led by junior Laulauga Tausaga, who was named the Midwest Women’s Field Event Athlete of the Year.
Iowa State has three performers who have qualified for the NCAA Championships.
There are two opportunities for a Drake Relays champ to win an NCAA women’s individual title in the 1,500 and discus. Oklahoma State junior Sinclaire Johnson is the collegiate leader in the 1,500 after running a school-record 4:09.50 to win the NCAA West Prelims while beating a field that included defending champ Jessica Hull from Oregon..
Iowa junior Laulauga Tausaga threw a school record 205-8 to register the highest mark at either the NCAA East or West Prelims May 23.
“I’m am very proud of Laulauga and everything she has accomplished so far this season,” said Iowa coach Joey Woody, who also was named the Midwest Track and Field Coach of the Year. “To win both indoor and outdoor field athlete of the year in this region is extremely tough and is a tribute to her competitiveness in multiple throwing events. She is very deserving of this honor.”
Joining Minnesota’s Amir Young in the 100 at 8:16 p.m. Thursdaywill be Kentucky’s Kianna Gray and Celera Barnes. Gray, who was second in the 100 at the SEC Championships, anchored Kentucky to victory in the 4×200 relay at Drake while Barnes ran the opening leg.
Kentucky freshman Abby Steiner, who also ran on that winning Drake Relays 4×200 relay team, has qualified for the 200 which will be held at 9:14 p.m.Thursday.If that’s not enough the trio of Gray, Barnes and Steiner will join anchor Janie O’Connor in competing in the 4×100 relay qualifying that will be the first event run Thursday at 7:02 p.m.
Junior Chloe Abbott, who also ran on leg on Kentucky’s winning 4×200 relay at Drake, is in the400 that starts at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The SEC Outdoor champ won the 400 at the NCAA East Prelims, running a personal best 51.32 seconds
Ross will be running in three events during Thursday’s opening session starting with the 100 hurdles at 8:02 p.m. where she will be facing Iowa State freshman Keira Christie-Galloway in the second heat. Christie-Galloway arrived in Ames at the start of the second semester, setting a school record en route to winning the 60 hurdles at Big 12 Indoor Championships. She then became Iowa State’s first ever Big 12 100 hurdle outdoor champ in a school-record 13.10 .
Ross will be joined by Kentucky teammate Masai Russell, a freshman, in the 400 hurdles qualifying at 9 p.m. Thursday, along with Minnesota junior Rachel Schow. Russell placed third behind Ross at the Drake Relays university-college 400 hurdles.
Ross, Abbott and Steiner also will run legs for Kentucky in the4×400 relay, which will have qualifying rounds at 10:18 p.m. Thursday.The Wildcats won the 4×400 at the SEC Championships in a season best 3:30.81.
Johnson will run with two teammates in the 1500 at 9:26 p.m. Thursdaywho played a role in Oklahoma State winning the 4×800, 4×1600 and distance medley relay titles at the Drake Relays. Senior Molly Sughroue, who anchored the winning distance medley relay at Drake, won the Big 12 Outdoor 1500 title. Senior Jenny Celis, who ran on all three winning relays at Drake, is coming off a personal best of 4:12.92 in the NCAA West Prelim in the 1500.
Senior Dana Klein, who anchored San Francisco to third in the distance medley relay at Drake, also will compete in the 1500 after clocking a personal best 4:15.27 at the NCAA West Prelims.
The women’s 800 at 8:44 p.m. Thursday will include San Francisco’s Sadi Henderson and Iowa State senior Erinn Stenman-Fahey. Henderson, who ran on San Francisco’s 4×800 and distance medley relay teams at Drake, ran a personal best 2:03.31 at the NCAA West Prelims which ranks seventh overall on the collegiate list. Stenman-Fahey ran on the Cyclones’ 4×400 and distance medley relay teams. She placed sixth in the 800 at the Big 12 Outdoor meet.
Iowa junior Jenny Kimbro, who was second in both the Drake Relays university-college 100 hurdles and 400 hurdles, is in the heptathlon along with senior teammate Tria Simmons who ran a leg on Iowa’s 4×400 which placed second at Drake. Kimbro and Simmons placed second and third at the Big Ten meet, respectively.
Thursday’s opening round of competition features just one final running event – 10,000– with two Drake Relays performers competing in Minnesota’s Megan Hasz and Iowa State’s Amanda Vestri. Hasz ran the opening leg for Minnesota’s 4×1600 relay, which placed second at the Drake Relays. She finished second in the 10,000 at the Big Ten Championships.
Vestri, who also ran a leg on the Cyclones 4×1600 relay at Drake, was second in the 5,000 and 10,000 at the Big 12 Championships. She is ranked eighth on the NCAA performance list.
Megan Hasz’ twin sister – Bethany – will run in the 5,000 finals Saturday. Bethany anchored the Gophers’ 4×1600 relay at Drake.
Thewomen’s 3000 steeplechase at 7:32 p.m. Thursdaywill feature Wichita State redshirt junior Rebekah Topham who won captured the Drake Relays university-college 1500 as well as South Dakota State senior Rachel King who finished second behind Topham at Drake. Topham, a native of Griswold, Iowa, punched her ticket to her first NCAA Championships after finishing 11th in the NCAA West Regional with an American Athletic Conference and school record time of 9:53.92.
King will run in the first heat, while Topham is scheduled to run heat No. 2 of the steeplechase prelims. The top-five finishers from each heat plus the next two fastest will advance to Saturday’s finals at 5:54 p.m. Topham is the first female Shocker in the program’s history to qualify for the NCAA Championships in the steeplechase.
The 2019 outdoor season was packed full of highlights for Tausaga, setting Iowa records in the shot put , discus and hammer throw. She won her third-consecutive Big Ten discus title and was named Big Ten Outdoor Female Field Athlete of the Year after winning the discus title, placing third in the shot put and seventh in the hammer throw.
Missouri senior Gabi Jacobs is making her third straight appearance in the discus at NCAA Championships after recording back-to-back fifth-place finishes in 2017 and 2018. She finished second to Tausaga at the Drake Relays.
Missouri sophomore Sophia Rivera, who captured the Drake Relays women’s javelin title, earned her first trip to the NCAA Championships. She will be joined in the women’s javelin final Thursdaywith North Dakota State freshman Akealy Moton, who won the Drake Relays women’s university-college shot put.
Moton will have a busy Thursday also competing in the finals of the women’s shot put where she will be joined by Drake Relays competitors Tess Keyzers, a freshman from Minnesota who finished fifth at the Drake Relays, along with Iowa junior Nia Britt, who was 11that the Drake Relays.
Keyzers advanced to the national meet with a fifth-place finish in shot put at the NCAA West Prelim, where she recorded a career-best mark of 56-8, while setting a school record. She enters the NCAA meet seeded seventh and owns the nation’s 11th-best mark this season.
Britt is coming off a personal best throw of 55-7 ¾ at the NCAA West Prelim. A downside to Britt’s big throw is that it knocked teammate Laulauga Tausaga into 13th and only the top 12 from each region advanced to Austin. Tausaga placed fourth at the 2018 NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon, with a throw of 56-10 ¾.
Thewomen’s hammer throw Thursdayfeatures four place winners from the 2019 Drake Relays led by Minnesota senior Temi Ogunrinde, who finished fourth. Other athletes are Missouri senior Becky Keating (sixth), North Dakota State junior Bailey Retzlaff (seventh) and South Dakota senior Lara Boman (18th). Ironically Drake Relays champ Amy Herrington from North Dakota State did not advance from the NCAA West Prelims in the event.
Ogunrinde returns to the NCAA Championships for the third straight time after placing 18th in 2017 and ninth in 2018. She enters the national meet seeded fourth with a mark of 211-6, which earned her a runner-up finish at the NCAA West Prelim. Ogunrinde won her third-straight Big Ten title in hammer throw this spring with a season-best mark of 221-2 to become the first individual to three-peat as Big Ten women’s hammer throw champion.
South Dakota junior Helen Falda, who captured the Drake Relays university college pole vault, will be aiming for all-American honors in pole vault finals at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. She is ranked seventh on the collegiate list with a personal best of 14-5.25.
Kentucky junior Ellen Ekholm, who won the Drake Relays university-college high jump, advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the third year in a row. When the high jump finals take place SaturdayEkholm will be looking to ride momentum from a strong spring. Ekholm captured the SEC title May 11, marking her fifth straight victory including wins at the Florida Relays, Tennessee Relays, Kentucky Invitational and Drake Relays .
Kentucky senior Marie-Josee Ebwea-Bile Excel won the Drake Relays university-college triple jump and will contend for the NCAA outdoor title in the triple jump Saturday. She finished second in the triple jump as a sophomore at the 2017 NCAA Outdoor meet, while placing third last year as well as in the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships.