Conference Championships


Marshall, Sullivan Leaving Their Mark As Seniors

A common refrain when an unheralded athlete drops an all-time mark is that he or she “came out of nowhere” to do so – but athletes like Tonea Marshall of LSU and Darryl Sullivan of Tennessee have been grinding throughout their collegiate careers to get to where they are.

Marshall and Sullivan, both seniors, were named National Athletes of the Week this past Tuesday for their ground-shaking efforts in the Women’s 60 Hurdles at the Corky Classic and in the Men’s High Jump at the Virginia Tech Invitational, respectively.

SEE MORE: NCAA & NJCAA ITF National Athletes of the Week (Jan. 21)

We’ll start with Marshall, who really came into her own near the end of the 2019 outdoor season and continued to thrive through various summer championship settings.

Marshall capped her junior year with a third-place showing in the Women’s 100 Meter Hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. It was in Austin, Texas, where Marshall went 12.67 in the semifinal round for a PR and then topped that with her 12.66 in the final.

The next month, Marshall improved her PR to 12.57 and won the event title at the NACAC U23 Track & Field Championships in Queretaro, Mexico. Marshall left no doubt that she was the best athlete that day and beat NCAA runner-up Chanel Brissett by 0.16 seconds.

Then came the USATF Outdoor Championships, where Marshall fought her way into the final as they only collegian in the field. She finished sixth in 12.81 behind five incredibly accomplished and talented professionals, including 2013 The Bowerman winner Brianna McNeal and world record holder Keni Harrison, among others.

Marshall took a well-deserved break, but rode that momentum from the outdoor season into the indoor season. She set a PR in the 60 of 7.38 at the LSU Purple Tiger earlier this month and then opened a lot of eyes this past weekend with a 7.86 in the 60 Hurdles to become the third fastest performer with the fifth fastest performance in collegiate history.

Sullivan hopes his most recent success turns into long-sought-after consistency.

After clearing 2.23m (7-4) as a senior at Marion High School in Illinois, it took Sullivan until the second indoor meet of his junior year at Tennessee to reach that height again. But when Sullivan did, he added one inch to that clearance at the 2019 Hokie Invitational to push his PR to 2.26m (7-5), a bar he’d top again in a runner-up effort at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Sullivan must like Rector Field House in Blacksburg, Virginia, because he and the Volunteers returned there this past weekend and raised the bar even higher – this time to an all-time mark.

It was a clearance of 2.33m (7-7¾) that put Sullivan into a tie with six other men as the fourth best performer in collegiate indoor history. Sullivan joined Vernon Turner of Oklahoma (2018), Trey Culver of Texas Tech (2018), Erik Kynard of Kansas State (2013), Donald Thomas of Auburn (2007) as well as Texas Exes Andra Manson (2007) and Mark Boswell (2000) in that elite group.

Three men sit ahead of Sullivan in the record book: Record holder Hollis Conway of Louisiana at 2.37m (7-9¼), 2013 The Bowerman winner Derek Drouin of Indiana at 2.35m (7-8½) and Brian Brown of Northwestern State at 2.34m (7-8). Conway, Drouin and the aforementioned Kynard are the only men in collegiate indoor history to clear 2.33m (7-7¾) twice in a career.

Speaking of Drouin and Kynard, they had quite the rivalry back in 2013.

Do you know what else happened seven years ago?

Rollins, then competing for Clemson, set the current collegiate record of 7.78 in the 60H. That’s the standard that Marshall, who now sits third all-time behind Rollins and Virginia Powell of Southern California (7.84), is chasing for the next few months.

And you know how only three men topped 2.27m (7-7¾) multiple times in a collegiate career? Well, only one woman has gone sub-7.87 multiple times in a career: That would be Rollins.

So, if we can infer anything from the past it’s that consistency takes an athlete from one big performance to being remembered as one of the best in collegiate history.