The HepsNation women had a spectacular final day of competition at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships as two Ivy League records and two other top 10 mark were rewritten as seven First-Team All-American honors were handed out.
Harvard’s Autumne Franklin was highlighted by ESPN as a potential dark horse contender for the NCAA title in the 400m hurdles due to her winning her semifinal heat with ease. The final did not appear to be as easy for Franklin. Franklin was in fourth going into the final stretch and looked a little shakey going over the final two hurdles, but that did not slow her down too much as she became the first Ivy undergrad to go under 55 seconds in history – 54.91 – and finished fourth overall.
A second Ivy record fell less than 10 minutes later as Harvard’s sprinting sensation Gabrielle Thomas was the top true freshman in the 200m final as she finished third overall with a time of 22.47 (wind +1.9 so wind-legal). Thomas is the first Ivy Leaguer to ever earn All-American honors in this event.
Dartmouth’s Dana Giordano has continued to improve in the 1,500m as the championship season progressed. In the 1,500m final, she moved to the front of the pack and took over leading responsibilities at 100m mark, leading the first lap at 69 seconds. Not long afterwards, Marta Freitas of Mississippi State decided to take the lead. Giordano stayed on her outside shoulder, going through the first 800m in 2:19. Giordano was in second place at the bell, about a step behind Freitas, where Stanford’s Elise Cranny and Michigan’s Shannon Osika passed Giordano, forcing her to drop back to fourth place. Giordano was not out of it though – she found that final gear and managed to regain the ground on Osika and pass her with only meters to spare to finish in third place with another personal best – 4:11.86, the second fastest time in conference history and a new school record by 0.08 seconds (the former school record holder – Abbey D’Agostino, 4:11.94). This was the best finish since 1990 and 1991 when Cornell’s Stephanie Best finished third in this event both years. It should be noted that her best 1,500m time going into her senior year was 4:19.55, so she’s improved by almost 8 seconds over the course of her senior season AND by 7 seconds since the NCAA East Preliminary Round from a few weeks ago. Freitas won the race in 4:09.
Out in the field events, Dartmouth’s Kaitlin Whitehorn was perfect through the first three heights in the high jump final, one of three athletes to be perfect through 5-11 ½. Her first miss came at 6-00 ¾ – outdoor personal best territory for the Big Green senior. Unfortunately, she did not make the height. But good news – she finished in a tie for third place as she cleared 5-11 ½ and was sixth best in conference history. This was the best finish for an Ivy Leaguer since 2001 when Harvard’s Dora Gyorffy won the event.
Harvard’s Paige Kouba started her steeplechase final in the middle of the pack, sitting in sixth place by the first water jump as New Mexico’s Courtney Frerichs led the race. Kouba maintained that position over the course of the next few laps as Frerichs pulled away from the entire field. Kouba ultimately forming a little pack with New Hampshire’s Elinor Purrier, North Dakota State’s Erin Teschuk, and Arkansas’ Devin Clark. At the bell, various members of the pack made their moves past Kouba and Kouba faded back to seventh place in 9:54.43, earning First-Team honors in front of her hometown crowd. Frerichs powered to a new collegiate record in 9:24.40.
Princeton’s Cecilia Barowski started the 800m final near the back, but that position provided some protection from the wind along that backstretch. Also, Barowski is known for her strong final lap so she could catch up if she drops too far back. At the bell, she continued to sit in eighth place and the field started to form a gap from her. It looked like on the final turn that Barowski may have given too much space between her and the rest of the field for her to try to catch up and not finish dead last. But Barowski moved out to lane 3 in the final 100m where she had a clear shot on that final stretch to pass three runners and claim fifth overall in 2:03.09, giving coach Peter Farrell one last All-American prior to retiring at the end of this season.
Harvard junior Nikki Okwelogu was aiming for a second outdoor First-Team honor this championship in the discus throw. Each of her throws got progressively better throughout the competition, but her best throw of 176-10 put her in 10th place – one shy of making the cut for an additional three throws. She ended up with Second-Team honors with that tenth place result.
Brown’s O’Sha Williams closed out her collegiate career on a high note by competing at the NCAA Championships. In the triple jump final, she finished in 19th place with a distance was 41-09 ¼.
Columbia’s Natalie Tanner ran well in the 5,000m final. At the start, she was near the back of the field but the field ran as a tight group through the first mile as 2 seconds separated first from 24th. The pace picked up during the second mile, and Tanner was able to keep up the pace, improving her standing in the race. In the end, she ran the second fastest time in her career – 16:23.04 – to finish 15th overall to earn Second-Team All-American honors.
Danielle Barbian (Harvard ’15) received First-Team All-American honors as a member of the Oregon Ducks’ 4×100 relay team. She has typically been the lead-off leg for the Ducks and was so for the semifinals but she moved to third leg after her Ducks’ teammate Hannah Cunliffe came up with an injury during the 100m semifinals on Thursday. Barbian received and handed off the baton cleanly, helping the Ducks to finish third overall with a time of 42.91.
Princeton alumna Jasmine Blocker – running for Tulane – was in a loaded 400m final where she finished seventh overall in 53.14, earning First-Team All-American honors.
At the end of the meet, Harvard was the top Ivy squad in the team scoring as they sat in 17th place with 14 points, followed closely behind by Dartmouth in 19th place (11.5 points), while Princeton finished in a tie for 49th place with 4 points.