ON THIS DAY: Courtney Okolo Makes Collegiate History

Courtney Okolo changed the game on April 23, 2016.

Before that day, no female athlete had gone sub-50 seconds in the 400 Meters during the collegiate season. While six collegians had done so outside of the collegiate season, Okolo was the closest to doing so within the parameters two years prior when she went 50.03 at the Big 12 Outdoor Track & Field Championships for what was the collegiate record at the time.

All-Time Top-11 Collegiate Performers – Women’s 400 Meters

Name
Program
Mark
Year
Courtney Okolo
Texas
49.71
2016
Lynna Irby
Georgia
49.80
2018
Kendall Ellis
Southern California
49.99
2018
Sydney McLaughlin
Kentucky
50.07
2018
Monique Henderson
UCLA
50.10
2005
Natasha Hastings
South Carolina
50.15
2007
Pauline Davis
Alabama
50.18
1989
Ashley Spencer
Illinois
50.28
2013
DeeDee Trotter
Tennessee
50.32
2004
Chrisann Gordon
Texas
50.39
2017
Joanna Atkins
Auburn
50.39
2009

Then Texas’ Okolo toed the starting line at the LSU Alumni Gold four years ago.

The rest, they say, is history – collegiate history.

Okolo covered one lap in 49.71, smashing her old collegiate record by 0.32 seconds. It was also the third fastest time in the world that year, sitting behind Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas) and Allyson Felix (United States), who went for gold and silver at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games four months later.

“I wanted to run that fast,” Okolo said after the meet. “We’ve been talking about it and training has been looking like I could run that fast, so it was about executing. I was relieved. I put a lot of pressure on myself to execute my race right.”

That was one of six quarter-mile victories on the season for Okolo, who went undefeated as a senior. She swept the NCAA slate clean both as an individual and anchored Texas to a pair of 4×400 crowns.

Okolo would eventually win The Bowerman later that year, becoming the third woman in Big 12 Conference history to earn collegiate track & field’s highest honor. She joined inaugural winner Jenny Barringer of Colorado (2009) and Jessica Beard of Texas A&M (2011) in that regard.