Ellis Sent USC To A Thrilling Victory
Kendall Ellis had the weight of a cardinal-and-gold world resting on her shoulders as she waited to receive the baton for her anchor leg in the 4×400 relay at the 2018 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
For Southern California’s women to capture their second team title in program history, they had to win the meet’s final event, which also happened to be the final race at the old Hayward Field. The Women of Troy sat nine points behind Georgia after 20 events (52-43) and the first-place Bulldogs didn’t have a relay team, nor did second-place Stanford (51). The best fourth-place Kentucky – with the season’s best time entering the competition at 3:25.99 – could finish with a win was a second-place tie. Either Georgia or USC would be crowned champions.
It didn’t look good for USC, though.
The Women of Troy went from third after the first leg to fourth at the conclusion of the penultimate carry. To make matters worse, Deanna Hill and Ellis collided in the exchange zone and bobbled the baton, which pushed USC down one more spot in the pecking order and even further behind race-leading Purdue (Here were the splits after the third leg: Purdue, 2:35.05; Oregon, 2:36.21; Kentucky, 2:36.89, Florida, 2:36.95; USC 2:37.01).
Ellis wasn’t deterred.
After all, she set the American and collegiate record over 400 meters at the NCAA Indoor Championships with her 50.34 winner and became the second-fastest performer outdoors with her 49.99 effort at the Pac-12 Championships one month earlier.
A near immediate pass of Florida’s Taylor Sharpe put Ellis in fourth.
Ellis continued along the rail to take third, but not before jostling Wildcat anchor Kayelle Clarke. That would later be grounds for a challenge by Georgia in hopes of getting USC disqualified.
Ten more meters stood between Ellis and Hannah Waller of the second-place Ducks. Double that and you get the distance between Ellis and Jahneya Mitchell of the first-place Boilermakers.
Those voids remained the same as they rounded the Bowerman Curve.
“I just don’t know if Purdue is going to get caught,” Jill Montgomery said on the ESPN broadcast.
“No. There’s no way, unless they drop the baton,” Dwight Stones replied. “Purdue is going to win this, which we certainly didn’t see.”
“Here comes SC,” Montgomery said matter-of-factly.
Ellis found another gear and within the next 11 seconds, overtook Waller and then nipped Mitchell at the finish line to send the crowd at Hayward Field into hysterics and the Women of Troy to a national title by just one point over Georgia thanks to her 50.06 anchor.
“The second I got the baton; the second I got the baton,” Ellis said when asked when she knew she could win. “Before the race, Coach (Quincy) Watts told me, ‘If there’s a 10-meter gap, you can close it.’ Even if it had been 20 meters, it doesn’t matter – I’m going to get the team a win.”
The NCAA and collegiate track & field will mark a momentous milestone in the spring of 2021 -- the 100th anniversary of the NCAA Championships and with that, the NCAA Track & Field Championships. In June 1921, the University of Chicago hosted the first track & field championships in NCAA history.
This point can’t be emphasized enough: Not only was the event the first for NCAA track & field, but the first championships for any sport under the sponsorship of the NCAA.
To celebrate, over each of the next 365 days, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) will celebrate moments, student-athletes, and coaches that have made a century’s worth of championships special. From humble beginnings to important historical milestones to the modern-day, collegiate track & field has evolved with the American society.
The 2021 edition of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships begin with preliminary round action on May 27-29 in Jacksonville, Fla., and College Station, Texas. The championships final site and culmination of the celebration is slated for June 9-12, 2021 at the newly rebuilt Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
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Ellis Sent USC To A Thrilling Victory
Kendall Ellis had a remarkable come-from-behind victory in the 4×400 relay at the 2018 NCAA DI Outdoor T&F Championships that sent Southern California to the meet title.
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