Track And Field News — May 2013
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5 NCAA Winners

Making Headlines At The NCAA

Impressive winners affirm their standing in the national spotlight

D'Angelo Cherry - 60

Six days after D'Angelo Cherry won his first USATF Indoor 60 title with a PR of 6.49, he capped a unique double by clocking 6.54 for the NCAA crown.

The Mississippi State senior became only the fifth collegian to win both indoor dashes in the same year, and the first since '95.

"The time truly shocked me," Cherry admits of his USATF effort. "I hadn't expected a time like that." But, he adds, "Winning the NCAA was more personal to me than the USAs since I never got out of my NCAA heat before."

In his previous appearances in the collegiate finale, Cherry indeed failed to advance. He says, "I had to deal with back and hamstring issues since '10. But I've been healthy all this season."

MSU head coach Steve Dudley points out, "D'Angelo worked very hard all fall, even if we weren't sure he would have a final indoor season of eligibility." Cherry got the final season, despite having earned his business degree last December.

Cherry is a compact 5-4/144 (1.63/65) but he says, "Everybody else makes more of my size than I do."

Says Dudley, "He gets great power on the ground and that can make up for not having a real long stride."

After running under 10.10 four times in '09 as a frosh, including a 10.04 PR, Cherry had to battle those health problems for three years. But as Dudley says, "He is getting stronger all the time and is getting better at closing."

Dudley feels Cherry can run "consistently sub-10.10" outdoors in his first pro campaign. The sprinter says, "First I want to getback to 10.04, then let the competition push me under 10-flat. I'll build on the indoor season. The key willbe to stay healthy." /Jon Hendershott/

Abbey D'Agostino - 3K/5K

Abbey D'Agostino didn't get the A she was hoping for, but she certainly led the honor roll in Fayetteville. She became just the third woman ever (and first American) to win the 3/5 double, which more than made up for missing a World Championships qualifier in the longer race.

The original plan had been for the 24 - May 2013 Dartmouth junior just to run the 3000 after notching a list-leading oversized-track 8:55.41 in January. But after winning the 5000 at the Heps in 15:47.02, the Massachusetts native and coach Mark Coogan decided to jump into the longer race as well, in the hopes that Iowa State's Betsy Saina might employ her trademark frontrunning tactics and set up an A-qualifier of 15:18.00.

Though Saina did indeed set the tempo for the first 2 miles, the pace was not fast enough to hit the standard. Unfazed, D'Agostino patiently waited to move to the front, powering through the last 1600 in 4:44.3 to win in 15:28.11.

The next day's 3000 saw D'Agostino employ a similar strategy. She took the lead with six laps to go and dominating the final 600 for a comfortable win over Oregon's Jordan Hasay, 9:01.08-9:06.61.

"I felt more confident leading than I've ever been in the past," says D'Agostino, who set 4 Ivy League Records this winter (1000 in 2:45.42 and mile in 4:30.03 to go along with her 3K/5K bests).

"It's been great having experiences in the past that have been close enough and emotionally intense enough for me to really translate to a much a different type of race."

Those experiences include last year's NCAA outdoor 5000 title, which she won by a mere 0.03, and the electrifying Olympic Trials race, where she finished 5th, missing a spot on the London team by just 0.19.

Coogan, himself a '96 Olympian in the marathon, says that D'Agostino has had some tactical lapses in the past,butthather confidence has given her a new edge.

"It doesn't really matter who's in the race," he says. "She knows that if she runs a good race—it doesn't have to be a great race—she belongs with these people. That's a big step." /Rich Sands/

Lawi Lalang - mile/3K

Arizona distance coach James Li Ided a few Lawi Lalang rough spots in need of polish before the meet. Li knew his topic, as he had also coached Bernard Lagat, the last to win a mile/3K double (Washington State '99).

When Lalang dropped down to the mile at Millrose and ran 3:54.56 for 5th, Li called the No. 3 all-time collegiate run "a really good job," but admitted, "There are things we need to work on—especially a kick at the end."

With a lap to go at Millrose, Li noted, Lalang "got tripped up a bit" and could not match the CR finish of Tulsa's Chris O'Hare.

Apparently, his work on that paid off, as Lalang didn't need a kick in the NCAA mile. "I was surprised nobody went with me early on," he muses. "I said to myself, 'It doesn't seem I'm running fast, but no one is around.'

"With 2 laps it seemed I was going to take it, so I said, 'Let me just go for it.' The biggest thing for me to win was the mile, it's a fast race and it's good for me. It will help me prepare for the outdoor season."

So did the short rest—an hour and 40 minutes— between finals, and in the 3K Lalang even got to use that kick he'd been shaping.

"I just thought, let me go out there and do my thing," says Lalang after cutting off Kemoy Campbell's 3K hopes with a 26.60 final circuit.

"If I'm going to win, let me win; if I'm not, let somebody beat me. I was really prepared, I've been training well and it was just a matter of going there and doing it."

Doubling the short-pairing on short rest, Lalang says, "was much more difficult than" last year's pairing." One suspects it may also pay higher dividends outdoors. /Sieg Lindstrom/

UCF's Women Sprinters

The women's team that scored the most points in the 60 and 200—by almost triple—in Fayetteville wasn't LSU or Texas A&M. They are from the state of Florida, but they aren't Florida, Florida State or Miami.

They are from Conference USA, headed for a new league that doesn't yet have a name.

Meet the new sprint queens: UCF.

"We are one of the better sprint programs and I don't know how many people know that," Central Florida coach Caryl Smith Gilbert says. "I hope we can get at a level and remain at a level and get recognized for what we do."

Put together a weekend like junior Aurieyall Scott (1st in the 60, 2nd in the 200) and soph Octavious Freeman (3rd in both) had at nationals and that will happen sooner rather than later.

"Having them together helps each other," says Smith Gilbert, whose team will be in with the non-Catholic Big East remnants next season, "When we go to a meet and the competition level is very high, it's like a practice."

Says Scott: "Alot of people don't get that opportunity to run against that competition every day, and my competition is my teammate. We push each other every day."

Scott was an elite sprinter last season, but it was a trip to the 200 final at the Olympic Trials that propelled her to another level.

"For Aurieyall, it was a catalyst, it changed her," Smith Gilbert says. "She came back and started eating healthy, she lost 15 pounds, she was more focused, she stepped up to the plate. Last year she was injured off and on and a lot of that was nutrition. I told her, she ran 22.68 and was only at about 75%. 'Imagine what you can do if you just concentrate.' "

What she did is become perhaps the best collegiate sprinter in the country. / Bret Bloomquist/

Andrew Irwin - PU

The aim of defending his pole vault title, admits Andrew Irwin, "weighed on my mind. Winning the national title at home was definitely important."

So the 20-year-old Arkansas soph won a tight shootout with Oral Roberts' outdoor NCAA winner Jack Whitt, riding an indoor PR 18-8*4 (5.70) to retain his title.

It was doubly significant to Irwin, a native of Mt. Ida, a couple of hours west of Fayetteville. He points out, "My parents, sister, a former coach and some friends all were at Nationals. So I had a lot of support."

And his win was the first for the UA team in its successful pursuit of the team victory. "I definitely wanted to give a kind of kick-start to the team," he affirms, "and those 10 points helped tremendously. I was very thankful to get them for the team."

While Irwin notes "it was good" to match his then indoor best of 18-4/ (5.60), then make 18-6/ (5.65) en route, he adds, "I don't look at them as Prs. I just see them as the next bar I need to clear. I try not to overthink things. I just want to clear the bar in front of me."

He also describes the 18-84 clearance as "a pretty good technical jump. But I also didn't jump phenomenally that day. I just did the things that were working and tried to stay as relaxed as possible."

He now looks ahead to the outdoor SEC and NCAA meets, the Conference because he won last year with his overall highest, an American Junior Record 18-94 (5.72).

And he wants a far better NCAA outcome, seeing that he didn't advance from the East Regional. "I just wasn't mentally prepared last year," he says. And driving rain contributed to a no-height at the Trials.

He says, "I'm definitely looking forward to getting back to Eugene and doing a lot better this year." /Jon Hendershott/