We are so happy to have Sam Fariss writing for RunBlogRun again. In this third of her series on the NCAA Champs, Sam Fariss writes about the big surprises that happened on the fourth and final day in Austin, Texas.
NCAA Championships 2023, Day 4: Upsets from the Underdogs
By Sam Fariss for RunBlogRun
AUSTIN, TEXAS – The final day of the NCAA championships was stuffed to the brim with exciting moments and, shockingly, some upsets in races that seemed to have results written in the stars ahead of the firing guns.
With all-star track athletes like Britton Wilson, Arkansas junior, and Greta Karinauskaite, CBU junior, competing in their best events on Saturday evening, everyone expected the night to go their way. However, the upsets started in just the third race of the day when Olivia Markezich, Notre Dame junior, took the 3000-meter steeplechase by storm.
Olivia Markezich won the NCAA steeple, photo by How Lao Photography.
Karinauskaite led nearly all seven and a half laps until Markezich pulled ahead and never looked back. The Fighting Irish runner flew along the final stretches of the race and crossed the finish line in just 9:25.03 – earning a collegiate lead and facility record and beating her own career record.
“I just wanted to stay up with (the race leader) and close as hard as I can. This is something I have been dreaming of,” Markezich said. “So, I’m super happy.”
The fifth-ranked Markezich had a personal best nearly 10 seconds slower than that of Karinauskaite but had a faster qualifying time on Thursday.
Wilson, the defending 400-meter hurdles NCAA champion and fifth-place finisher at the World Athletics Championships in 2022, was expected to take home the titles in both the open 400 meters as well as a repeat in the hurdles event.
In the open 400-meter foot race, apparently, nobody accounted for the home-field advantage that Texas junior Rhasidate Adeleke had in her back pocket. As the runners rounded the back curve, the stadium erupted in roars of support, and it was apparent that Adeleke had the lead on not only Wilson but the entire field, including two other Arkansas Razorbacks.
The big surprise in the 400 meters, Rhasidate Adeleke! Photo by How Lao Photography
The Longhorn crossed the finish line in a mere 49.20 seconds, crushing the facility record, setting the meet record, and earning a personal best. The cherries on top? She ran the third fastest time in the world for the event so far this season, and she got to do it in front of a home crowd.
“It was kind of a blur. I just went out trusting myself,” Adeleke said. “I just put myself into position coming into the home stretch, and it was the kick at the end, which is something I’ve been doing well all season.”
The third surprising result of the evening came in Britton’s bread and butter, the 400-meter hurdles. There was an issue, though. The open 400 meters that she competed in concluded less than 25 minutes ahead of the hurdle competition starting.
Britton had a strong start, along with Campbell’s Chastity Pickett and Vanderbilt’s Brooke Overholt, but they were no match for Savannah Sutherland’s finishing kick in the last 150 meters. The Michigan sophomore was a blur along the final straight, earning her the title and a personal best by almost an entire second.
Savannah Sutherland upsets the 400m hurdles, photo by How Lao Photography
“The focus was on them, and I really had nothing to lose. It really helped me get after it and give it all that I got,” Sutherland said on being the underdog.
Sutherland crossed the finish line in 54.45 seconds, followed closely by Kentucky’s Masai Russell and Pickett, who also earned PBs.
Wilson was able to earn some redemption points in the last event of the evening as her team took first place in the 4×400 meter relay, earning Arkansas 10 points and pushing them into 3rd place overall. The only teams ahead of the Razorbacks were the Texas Longhorns, who earned a whopping 83 points at their home facility, and the Florida Gators, who earned 51 points.