Notebook From NCAAs: Recapping A Fantastic Second Day

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For the first time, the Birmingham CrossPlex played host to the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Judging by some of the performances over the weekend, athletes and coaches might be clammoring to come back sooner rather than later.

Five NCAA meet records were broken or tied, including two in a historic 60-meter final and two by athletes in the pentathlon (Akela Jones and Kendell Williams).

Here’s a closer look at one of those records, Edward Cheserek‘s amazing weekend and Courtney Okolo‘s blistering 400.

Bartender, Make It A Triple

It took Edward Cheserek’s legs a while to wake up Saturday.

It’s kind of fitting since Cheserek said he had trouble sleeping Friday night. By the time Cheserek’s head hit the pillow at 3 a.m., the 3000-meter final was scheduled to start 16 hours later.

Cheserek showed no ill effects and once he unleashed his patented kick on the 12th lap, the other competitors didn’t stand a chance.

The Oregon junior put considerable distance between himself and the pack, won by eight seconds and joined Galen Rupp as the only other man in NCAA history to complete the 5000-DMR-3000 triple.

"It’s good to keep momentum going," Cheserek said after he closed the final three laps in 28.219, 29.153 and 29.826. "It’s really nice to try to write my name up there like him."

Cheserek scored 22.5 points this weekend, more than one-third of the Ducks’ team-title-winning-total of 63. He is now the second most-prolific scorer in NCAA meet history with 63 career points.

Reaching New (Record) Heights

Last year might have been "The Year of the Vault."

Well, this year could be called "The Year of the Freshman Vaulter."

Arkansas’ Lexi Weeks became the first freshman to win an NCAA Indoor pole vault title and broke Sandi Morris’ meet record in the process. Weeks cleared 4.63m (15-2¼) and is also just the third woman in collegiate history to surpass 15 feet multiple times.

"I’m blown away," Weeks said. "I had high expectations for my freshman year, but I didn’t know I was going to be this successful so soon."

Weeks had stiff competition from Duke’s Megan Clark, who matched her vault for vault up to 4.50m (14-9). But Weeks raised the bar to 4.55m (14-11) and Clark bowed out.

"That just put me at ease when I cleared it," Weeks said. "I knew she’d have to go out and do it on her next jump or I would be champion."

The rest of the event turned into a victory lap for Weeks and the freshman only had to focus on making history.

Okolo Drops The Hammer

Other than the winning time, Texas’ Courtney Okolo wanted nothing to do with the first heat of the 400-meter final.

So Okolo prepared as she usually would, kept her eyes off the track and once Arkansas’ Taylor Ellis-Watson crossed the finish line in 51.51, she had her benchmark to an NCAA title.

 "When I saw the time, I was like ‘OK, I think I can do that,’" Okolo said. "So I just tried to focus on how I’ve been running this whole season and just try to execute my race and not try to change anything."

Okolo’s game plan worked as she ran the third fastest time in collegiate history (50.69). She went through 200 meters in 24.116 and came home nearly a half-second faster than the rest of the section.

Her 400-meter crown completed a sweep in the event for the Longhorns. Just moments before, Zack Bilderback won the men’s version in 46.03.