Men's, women's teams capture track national championship
History was made and repeated Saturday night inside the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark., as the Arizona State University men's and women's track and field teams won the 2008 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in impressive fashion. The victory was the first indoor team crown for the men while the women successfully defended the title they earned last year.
"I really cannot describe how proud I am of these kids," Head Coach Greg Kraft said following the two wins. "This is something you always dream of and I am just speechless right now. We really have a great group of kids. We are all very tired, but this is a great feeling."
The men, who also won the 1977 NCAA Outdoor Championships, earned their second team crown while the women captured their third national title in a row as the were victorious last year outdoors. The win also was the seventh in a row for the women as they have also won two MPSF Indoor Championships, three NCAA crowns and one NCAA West Region (outdoor) title dating back to last year.
In the team standings, the women scored 51 points to out-distance runner-up LSU (43 points) for the second year in a row while Michigan (39), Texas (35) and Stanford (32) rounded out the Top 5. On the men's side, the Sun Devils scored 44 points to edge Florida State (41 points) while Texas (34), LSU (33) and Tennessee (26) rounded out the Top 5 in the men's standings. The women were helped along by Jacquelyn Johnson's third national title indoors while the men saw Kyle Alcorn set the pace with his national title at 3,000m.
The day started with Johnson continuing her dominant ways as she became the first three-time winner of the indoor pentathlon and just the ninth woman in NCAA history to win the same event three times in a career. Johnson scored 4,496 points to not only win for the third year in a row, but also break both the meet and collegiate records. Johnson, who nearly broke the collegiate pentathlon 800m record of 2:13.40 (she ran 2:13.45), needed to win by four seconds or more over Michigan's Bettie Wade and easily took the race and the overall title.
Johnson's score -- which came from a time of 8.23 in the 60m hurdles, a clearance of 1.78m (5-10.00) in the high jump, a shot put of 11.86m (38-11.00), a long jump of 6.16m (20-02.50) and an 800m time of 2:13.45 -- broke the previous NCAA record mark of 4,439 points scored by Austra Skuyte of Kansas State in 2002 while also breaking the previous meet record of 4,412 points scored by Hyleas Fountain of Georgia in 2004, the year she defeated Johnson and the only time Johnson has not won the national title in the multi-events.
"I was confident going in. I had a little bit of déjà vu, because last year I had to win by three seconds or more in the 800-meter. I knew I could do it; it was just a matter of actually going out there and accomplishing it. I wasn't really thinking of winning for the third year in a row, I was more focused on beating the record (meet and collegiate)."
While Johnson's impressive victory helped the women to victory, the collective efforts on the men's side sealed the deal. Trailing by 10 points to FSU with two events remaining, Alcorn stepped onto the track ranked 14th of the 16 competitors and hung with the pack for much of the race. Midway through, the senior took the lead and held it for a while before several runners passed him. But, with two laps remaining, Alcorn surged to the lead and held on for the win to tie the team score and set up a showdown in the 4x400m relay.
"It was a great race with a quick tempo. I made a move early to get to the front because I wanted to control the pace. I like to be able and rely on my kick and that was what got me the victory today. I didn't find out until after the race that my victory was going to give us a tie for the lead so that is a great feeling."
With only ASU and FSU battling for the crown, the Sun Devil team of Jimmie Gordon, Darryl Elston, Justin Kremer and Joel Phillip needed to finish only ahead of FSU to assure a team title. And that is just what the group did, running 3:06.34 to place third overall and take the team title as FSU finished sixth in the race. This race came just one hour after two of the runners, Phillip and Gordon, placed second (46.27) and eighth (47.47), respectively, in the 400m dash finals.
Before the women's 4x400m relay took the track, the team had already won, but this group of Dominique' Maloy, Shauntel Elcock, Jordan Durham and Jeavon Benjamin was determined to score and that is what they did as the group ran a season-best 3:33.63 to place third overall.
In the field, two more women earned national runner-up honors as April Kubishta took second in the pole vault with a clearance of 4.30m while Sarah Stevens was second in the shot put at 17.64m. Jessica Pressley also scored in the shot put, placing fifth overall with a toss of 16.77m. The final Sun Devil to compete in the meet was Jason Lewis, who battled through an injury to place 15th in the weight throw with a toss of 19.66m.