Top 10 Greatest Performers from NCAA Conference Weekend: Christian Coleman, Fred Kerley, Deajah Stevens, Grant Fisher, Dani Jones and More Shine
May 15, 2017
The NCAA outdoor track & field conference championships are in the books, and from Columbia, S.C., (site of SECs) to Eugene, Ore., (site of Pac-12s), there were some ridiculous performances thrown up by the nation’s top collegians last weekend. Every year, we’re astounded by the singular talents the NCAA system manages to churn out, whether it was World Championship medallists Andre De Grasse and Shawn Barber in 2015 or Olympic medallist Clayton Murphy last year. And every year, the system replenishes itself with more stars: sprinters Fred Kerley of Texas A&M and Deajah Stevens of Oregon lead the current crop.
We understand, however, if you weren’t able to stay home and watch track & field all weekend. That’s why, in no particular order, we’ve compiled the 10 best performances from NCAA conference weekend. Familiarize yourself with the names below, as they’ll be excelling on the world stage soon — in some cases, as soon as this summer’s World Championships in London.
The list skews Pac-12- and SEC-heavy, but we’re not biased. It’s a fact that those two conferences have the most talent in the country, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’re responsible for the lion’s share of the weekend’s best performances.
1. Oregon’s Deajah Stevens Sweeps Sprints in Pac-12s, Running 11.05 in the 100 and Tying the World Lead of 22.09 in the 200
The University of Oregon has three of the NCAA’s top female sprinters on its roster in Stevens, Ariana Washington and Hannah Cunliffe, but it’s Stevens — interestingly, the only one without an individual NCAA title — who has emerged as the best of the bunch in 2017. After a sophomore campaign that culminated with a seventh-place finish in the Olympic 200-meter final as a 21-year-old, Stevens has been even better this season. Indoors, she briefly held the NCAA and American records at 200 meters after clocking 22.28 in her prelim at NCAAs, only to be DQ’d later when it was found she stepped inside the lane line on the turn.
She had no such problem at Pac-12s, as she won three sprint races in the span of two hours on Sunday at Hayward Field. First, she ran the back straight for Oregon’s victorious 4×100 relay. Then she ran 11.05 (#4 NCAA) to lead a 1-2-3 sweep for the Ducks in the 100. But she saved her most impressive performance for last, clocking 22.09, the #2 time in NCAA history and tying Tori Bowie‘s 2017 world leader (only LSU’s Dawn Sowell has run faster as a collegian, though her 22.04 from 1989 was aided as it was run at 4,500 feet of altitude in Provo, Utah). Stevens benefited from a healthy tailwind (1.5 m/s) but a warmer day (it was only 55 degrees during the race) could have seen her go even faster.
With Bowie, Elaine Thompson and Dafne Schippers all in their primes, a medal at Worlds this summer will be difficult for Stevens, but after this weekend’s performance, it’s definitely a possibility.
FAST AS DUCK. Deajah Stevens runs 2017's fastest 200M! 22.09 is a #Pac12TF record.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) May 15, 2017
2. Texas A&M’s Fred Kerley Eases Up at the Line and Still Runs 44.09 in the 400 at SECs — In the Prelims!
Kerley, the NCAA 400 champ indoors, kicked off the weekend with a stunning 44.09 in his SEC Championships prelim on Friday night, a 2017 world leader that was even more impressive once you realize that he jogged across the finish line. The time was good enough to put Kerley #2 on the all-time collegiate list, sandwiching him between a pair of legends: NCAA record holder Quincy Watts (44.00), the 1992 Olympic champion, and former world record holder Butch Reynolds (44.10).
Kerley came back and won the final on Saturday, and though he didn’t improve his time, his 44.30 was still the world’s third-fastest time of 2017. It should be pointed out that it’s incredibly hard to run 44.09 or faster on consecutive days. Only three men in history have done it: Watts at the ’92 Olympics (43.71/43.50), Michael Johnson at the ’99 Worlds (43.96/43.18) and Kirani James at the ’16 Olympics (44.02/43.76). All three of those men have Olympic gold medals. Kerley also ran legs on Texas A&M’s 4×100 (4th in 39.21) and 4×400 (1st in 3:00.72) at SECs as the Aggies won the team title.
Bonus shoutout to Auburn, who had two freshmen from Jamaica under 45 in the final — Nathon Allen (44.52 for 2nd) and Akeem Bloomfield (44.81 for 3rd). Allen is a bit more experienced than your typical freshman, however — he’s already 21 years old and won a silver medal at the Olympics last summer as part of Jamaica’s 4×400 relay.
3. Tennessee’s Christian Coleman Becomes Eighth Man in History to Pull Off Sub-10/Sub-20 Same-Day Double, Wins Both 100/200 at SECs
Coleman was the star of the meet at NCAA indoors, sweeping the 60 and 200, and he’s in line for a similar feat at NCAA outdoors after running 9.97 (#1 NCAA/#4 world) and 19.98 (#1 NCAA/#4 world) to win the 100 and 200 at SECs on Saturday. Coleman is the eighth person in history to break 10 and 20 on the same day (see the others below) and at 21 years old, he’s the youngest to ever do it.
We should also give a shoutout to LSU’s Nethaneel Mitchell Blake, who ran 9.99/20.09 and would have won both events had it not been for Coleman’s brilliance.
— Jon Mulkeen (@Statman_Jon) March 5, 2017
To watch the 100m, click here.
4. Texas A&M’s Lindon Victor Smashes the Collegiate Record in the Decathlon
Victor already owned the collegiate record when the decathlon began on Thursday at SECs in Columbia, S.C. Back in March, Victor, who finished 16th in Rio for his native Grenada last year, Victor scored 8472 at the Texas Relays to break the old mark of 8465 held by Texas’ Trey Hardee. Victor flew past that mark last week at SECs, however, piling up 8539 points to win handily. That score would have placed him fifth in Rio last summer and he’s now scored more points — twice — than Hardee or Ashton Eaton ever did in college — two men who have combined to win the last six World/Olympic titles.
5. Virginia Tech’s Hanna Green Pulls Off the 800/1500 Double at ACCs
Not only did Green, a two-time NCAA 800 runner-up indoors, win both events by over a second at ACCs in Atlanta, but she did so by putting up the fastest time of the weekend in both events — 2:01.28 in the 800, 4:15.08 in the 1500. The latter result was particularly impressive for Green as her PR at the start of the year was just 4:23.20.
Unfortunately for Green, she may have to settle for second at NCAAs again as Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers was laughably dominant at the Pac-12 meet, winning the 800 by almost three full seconds (2:02.93 to 2:05.67) as she ran a big negative split (62.06-60.87).
6. Stanford’s Grant Fisher Closes in 51.81 to Win Pac-12 1500
Speaking of negative splits, Fisher ran a huge one at Pac-12s as he won the 1500 in 3:54.67. Normally we wouldn’t be impressed by a 3:54.67, but Fisher won the race by .88 — a huge margin in a tactical race, especially when you consider he outkicked the likes of Oregon’s Blake Haney (3rd 2015 NCAA 1500) and Sam Prakel (anchored Oregon to wins in DMR and 4xmile at Penn Relays), Cal’s Thomas Joyce (NCAA mile finalist) and Colorado’s Ben Saarel (3:38 pb). Fisher ran his final 800 in 1:52.52 and his final 400 in 51.81 — terrific speed for a guy who finished 5th at NCAA XC and has run 13:30 for 5,000.
Honorable mention here to Ole Miss’ Craig Engels, who had a faster time (3:52.90) and faster final 800 (1:51.68) to win SECs but didn’t close quite as hard on the final lap (53.12) and didn’t win by as much (.46).
Fisher could be a factor in the NCAA 1500 but it looks like he’s going for the 5,000 as his 1500 sb of 3:46.18 only puts him 66th on the West qualifying list (top 48 declared entrants make it to regionals). If the 1500 were the focus, he would have tried to hit a fast time at some point. That should make for a tremendous 5,000 final at NCAAs though, with Fisher and Syracuse’s Justyn Knight trying to beat Edward Cheserek — in the final race of Cheserek’s Oregon career.
7. Texas A&M True Freshman Devin Dixon Runs Big PR of 1:45.71 to Win SEC 800
No Donavan Brazier, no problem. Brazier turned pro last year after winning NCAAs as a true freshman, and now another true frosh has risen to take his place in College Station. World, meet Devin Dixon, who won the SEC 800 title on Saturday in 1:45.71, slicing 1.30 seconds off his PR to defeat Florida’s Andres Arroyo and Ole Miss’ Craig Engels (who, don’t forget, was 4th in this event at last year’s Olympic Trials but to be fair Engels it must be noted that he was doubling back from the 1500).
A big PR on the big stage is nothing new for Dixon (or his coach Alleyne Francique of Texas A&M, who has also mentored Brazier and NCAA indoor record holder Jazmine Fray to breakthroughs over the past two years). Last year as a senior at Eagle’s Landing High School in McDonough, Ga., Dixon entered the Georgia Meet of Champions with PRs of 47.42 and 1:51.97 and left with two victories and two new PRs of 46.91 and 1:49.52 — both races coming on the same day. He got down to 1:47.85 indoors but was tripped in the SEC final and finished last — though he later ran on A&M’s NCAA-champion 4×400 relay. Outdoors, he ran a solid 1:47.01 at the Sun Angel Classic on April 8 but his 1:45 on Saturday officially upgraded him to phenom status. Unfortunately for Dixon, there’s an even bigger freshman phenom in his event — UTEP’s Emmanuel Korir — which means he may have to wait a while to win an NCAA title.
The NCAA 800 final likely will be must-see TV as the NCAA indoor champ Korir continued to impress last weekend. He lowered his 400 pb from 44.67 to 44.53 at the Conference USA Champs (which were run at altitude which helps a 400 – the NCAA converts that 44.53 down to 44.64 at sea level).
8. Georgia’s Devon Williams Scorches Two Huge PRs to Win SEC 110 Hurdles Crown
Williams is the NCAA heptathlon champion, but he only entered two events at SECs: the long jump (he finished 8th with a best mark of 7.71m) and the 110 hurdles. With a PR entering the weekend of 13.83, Williams was a good hurdler for a multi-eventer, but after this weekend it’s clear that he’s a great hurdler, period. He PR’d by a massive .31 of a in running 13.52 in the prelims, then ran another huge PR in the final, an NCAA-leading 13.37, to win over NCAA 60 hurdles champ Grant Holloway of Florida (13.42). What a run.
9. Colorado’s Dani Jones Kicks Her Way to a Pair of Wins in 1500 & 5000 at Pac-12s
Jones announced herself at NCAA indoors with an epic double, anchoring the Colorado DMR to victory before returning one night later to win the 3000. At Pac-12s, she destroyed a good field that included Oregon’s Katie Rainsberger to win the 1500 in 4:22.09, almost a full second better than Rainsberger’s 4:23.07. Just over two hours later, she returned to win the 5,000, holding off Washington’s Amy-Eloise Neale, 16:12.76 to 16:12.78. Jones has terrific range — she has also run 2:04.35 this year for 800 — so it will be interesting to see what event she picks to run at NCAAs.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) May 15, 2017
10. Baylor’s Annie Rhodes Clears 4.61m/15-1.25 in Big 12 Pole Vault to Move to #5 All-Time Among Collegians
Rhodes, the NCAA runner-up indoors, PR’d twice at the Big 12 meet in Lawrence, Kan., clearing 4.51m/14-9.5 before raising the bar way up and joining the 15-foot club by clearing 4.61/15-1.25, tying her for fifth on the all-time NCAA list. Her best mark coming into the meet was the 4.45/14-7.25 that she cleared at NCAA indoors in March.
Did we miss any great performances from this weekend? Let us know is this thread on our fan forum / messageboard: MB: Your NCAA Stars of the Weekend – Top 10 Performers from NCAA Conference Action –