Claye Claims NCAA Title on Birthday

Athletics Communications
By Athletics Communications
University of Oklahoma

June 13, 2009

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Oklahoma freshman Will Claye gave himself the best birthday present he’s ever received on Saturday: An NCAA title in the triple jump. Jumping on his 18th birthday, Claye broke his own U.S. Junior National record in the event and a 24-year old facility record by an Olympic gold medalist as he put on a show for a packed grandstand at the NCAA Track and Field Championships on the campus of the University of Arkansas.

Claye’s top jump of 56-6.75 (17.24) was good enough to win by over five inches, topping the 56-1.25 (17.10) by Texas A&M’s Julian Reid. The title marked the first ever triple jump national championship in school history and the first-year Sooner became OU’s 13th national champion in outdoor track and field history, the first since the 4x100 relay of Edward Clarke, Danny McFarlane, Ryan Kite and Roxbert Martin in 1997.

Claye's jump was the best in the world by a junior competitor and the seventh-best in the world on the senior level.

Claye was not the only OU All-American on Saturday as Leslie Cole broke the school record in the 400-meter dash and Scottesha Miller finished seventh in the 200-meter dash to earn All-American status. Cole finished fourth in the event with a time of 51.20, more than two-tenths of a second faster than the previous 19-year old Oklahoma record. The Oklahoma program closed out the meet with eight All-America honors after Claye accomplished the feat in the long jump on Thursday and the women's 4x100 relay of Sherine Wells, Miller, Cole and Ti'Anca Mock did so on Friday night.

Claye took the lead on his first attempt with a jump of 55-9.00 (16.99) but was passed by Reid when he unleashed his top jump of 56-1.25 (17.10). Just as he had done in his battle with Reid at the NCAA Midwest Regional, Claye burst down the runway on his next attempt and recaptured the lead with a jump of 56-4.75 (17.19). The freshman had a tailwind of just 2.0 meters-per-seconds, making the distance record eligible and breaking Claye’s U.S. Junior National record of 55-7.00 (16.94).

The Phoenix native was not done as he upped his mark one final time on his third attempt, shaking his head as he emerged from the sandpit and letting the crowd know it was over after posting his winning mark of 56-6.75 (17.24). Claye’s mark also broke a 24-year old John McDonnell Field record of 56-3.50 (17.15) set by former Olympic gold medalist Mike Conley in 1985.

“I knew yesterday when we came out in prelims that I had something in me and had to come out to compete. Julian Reid jumped over 56 feet and I went out on my next jump as a competitor,” said Claye. “This whole thing is a blessing, thank God. I can’t even explain it, it’s a huge blessing to come out here and compete and work with Coach (Jeremy) Fischer. It’s the best birthday present I’ve ever had in my whole life. I just felt really good today.”

Claye entered the meet ranked first in the nation with his previous U.S. Junior National record of 55-7.00 (16.94).

Cole was a part of one of the fastest 400-meter dash finals in NCAA history as she reeled off the PR and program record, 51.20, while Auburn’s Joanna Atkins pulled off the upset in the event with a time of 50.39. Cole’s time bested the 19-year old program record of 51.41 set by Wendy Watson in 1990.

One of the most accomplished female sprinters in OU history, Cole closes out her Oklahoma career with five All-America honors including Saturday’s honor and is a part of seven program records, four indoor and three outdoor.

The program record holder in the event, Miller was forced to run into a headwind of 1.2 meters-per-second, recording a time of 23.46 to finish seventh in the event and earn All-America status. For Miller the honor is the fourth in her career and gives the Daytona Beach, Fla., native an indoor/outdoor sweep after finishing ninth in the event during the indoor season to garner the award.

The Oklahoma men’s program entered the meet ranked 28th nationally and is the only program in the nation to have a NCAA squad with multiple athletes consisting of only freshmen. With the conclusion of the men’s season, the program loses just three athletes, two of which competed in the NCAA Midwest Regional in Norman. Paul Gill, Frankie Green and Adrian Wiltshire, all of the jumps program, graduate in 2009.

Like the men’s side, the Oklahoma women lose a small number of athletes, all four of which competed in the NCAA Midwest Regional. Along with Cole, the OU women graduate NCAA Championships competitor Mikaela Johansson along with Dominique Jacobs and Katherine Johnson.

A number of OU athletes will now continue to train for the U.S. Track and Field Championships on June 25-28 in Eugene, Ore.