Conference Championships Weekend: In Review

EDITOR’S NOTE: More will be added to this recap throughout the weekend

We’d like to officially welcome you to the postseason!

Within the next two weeks, national champions will be crowned in each of the five collegiate divisions, with the NAIA and NJCAA getting the party started on Thursday, March 5 and Friday, March 6, while all three NCAA divisions rev it up the following Friday.

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Before all of that, athletes and teams fought for both conference bragging rights and those final few spots available at those respective national championship meets.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest moments from this past weekend.

Tying An All-Time Best Mark

Dylan Cooper of UW-Eau Claire went all the way to the top.

Cooper, who already etched his name into the NCAA Division III record book earlier this season in the heptathlon when he became the seventh best performer, leapfrogged five more men and tied the NCAA DIII all-time best this weekend with his score of 5441 points at the WIAC Indoor Championships. That matched the effort that Will Daniels of Central (Iowa) turned in last year at the Wartburg Indoor Select (Daniels is now at NCAA Division I Iowa).

It was a brilliant performance from Cooper as he started the meet with a PR in the 60 (7.27), equaled a PR in the long jump with his mark of 6.70m (21-11¾) and then closed things out in style when he topped his PR in the 1000 by one second.

Was There Ever A Doubt?

The SEC Indoor Championships stole the show once again.

Carey McLeod of Tennessee made headlines on Friday night when he hit a PR of 8.19m (26-10½) in the long jump to match the facility record set by Will Williams from two years earlier. McLeod also matched the 17th best performer in collegiate history and became the first male Volunteer to win a horizontal jump title since Darius Pemberton in 1995.

A little while before that, Tyra Gittens of Texas A&M won the heptathlon title with 4391 points. That was a PR for her and made her the 23rd best performer in collegiate history, just one point shy of Georgia Ellenwood of Wisconsin at No. 22.

Then on Saturday, Tonea Marshall of LSU warmed up the track with a 7.89 MR in the 60 Meter Hurdles. That was the third time this season that Marshall went sub-7.90, making her just the second woman in collegiate history to accomplish that feat (Brianna Rollins, 2013).

Abby Steiner of Kentucky scorched one lap in 22.57 to win the Women’s 200 Meters and match the No. 15 performer in collegiate history. Steiner didn’t let her PR of 22.73 from the prelims stand for too long.

Earlier in the day, Ellen Ekholm of Kentucky tied the meet record in the high jump with her clearance of 1.91m (6-3¼). That also moved her into a tie for the 21st best performer in collegiate history.

The last race of the meet provided some of the best fireworks. Alabama zoomed to the top of the women’s 4 x 400 relay lists by winning in 3:29.36. The Crimson Tide were led by a pair of 51 splits, the fastest an anchor 51.33 by Natassha McDonald.

The Nuguse Is Loose

Yared Nuguse continues to impress.

Just a few weeks after anchoring Notre Dame to the second fastest all-conditions time in collegiate history in the Distance Medley Relay, Nuguse shredded the field at the ACC Indoor Track & Field Championships in the mile.

Nuguse crossed the finish line in 3:55.62, nearly seven seconds ahead of the closest competitor. Not only that, but Nuguse broke a 46-year-old meet record and a 25-year-old facility record in the process. His time also happens to be the fifth fastest collegiate time on an oversized track.

Coming into the final, Nuguse was ranked 69th in the nation after qualifying with a 4:02.59 on Friday night for his first mile of the season. The reigning NCAA outdoor 1500-meter champ moved all the way up to No. 4 with how the Descending Order List looked Saturday afternoon.

Ames-ing For A Meet Record

There were some strong performances at the Big 12 Indoor Championships.

Zach Bradford of Kansas and KC Lightfoot of Baylor put on quite the show in the Men’s Pole Vault on Friday afternoon. Bradford and Lightfoot dueled up to the meet record of 5.77m (18-11), a bar that they both cleared on their third attempt. After they both bowed out at 5.82m (19-1), the event title and meet record went to Lightfoot based on him only needing one attempt to clear 5.72m (18-9¼). Bradford settled for second.

Julien Alfred of Texas continued her incredible season with a facility record and meet record of 7.15 in the final of the Women’s 60 Meters on Saturday. Alfred returned to the track later in the afternoon to win the 200 in 23.02. She became the first woman in the past 14 years to sweep both titles at the meet.

Ducks Fly Together

Three-quarters of Oregon’s collegiate record-setting Distance Medley Relay team ran at the Boston University Last Chance Invitational this weekend, instead of the MPSF Indoor Championships in Seattle, Washington.

It turned out pretty well for Charlie Hunter, Cooper Teare and James West, as the trio made some more collegiate history individually.

West started things off on Thursday night when he clocked an all-time collegiate best in the indoor 1500 of 3:36.93. That was superior to the former standard held by former Oregon star Edward Cheserek, who was en route to his collegiate record in the mile at the time. He returned to the track the following afternoon to become the No. 15 performer on the seasonal chart in the 800 with a 1:48.67, a mark that would qualify him for NCAAs, if it stands.

Hunter and Teare worked together in the mile on Friday to capture NCAA qualifying marks and a pair of all-time marks in the process. The victory went to Hunter in 3:55.41 and made him the 12th fastest performer in collegiate history, while Teare finished runner-up in 3:55.50 for the 14th fastest performer in collegiate history.

How Close Was That!?

It came down to the wire for the women’s team title at the G-MAC Championships.

Entering the final event of the afternoon, Tiffin held a 0.66-point edge over Hillsdale.

We’re not kidding. The score was Tiffin 139.66, Hillsdale 139.

But the Chargers posted an impressive four-second, head-to-head victory over the Dragons in the 4×400 to take the team title.

Hillsdale finished with 149 points, while Tiffin came through with 147.66.