LOS ANGELES — Behind three field event titles, the 22nd-ranked University of Oklahoma women’s track and field team won the team title at the RaferJohnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational, held at UCLA’s Drake Stadium on Saturday, with 146 points.
The Sooners had four event wins on the day, all coming in the field events. Several Sooners on both the men’s and women’s side were either runner-up or among the top collegiate finishers in their events. As a team, OU produced 18 PRs and recorded four changes to the career top 10.
“Our team came to compete," stated head coach Jim VanHootegem. "We saw good effort, good intensity and high focus levels as a group. As a team, we want to go to a meet like this and let people know Oklahoma was at the meet. It’s difficult to go onto another person’s track and win, and the women were able to do that today.
“Overall, I was very pleased with the team. I thought that they brought good energy and they carried good energy throughout. They brought it from start to finish and showed great support.”
Contributing to the Oklahoma women’s team victory with victories were Jess Woodard, Gabby Kearney and Brianna Rodriguez.
Kearney won the javelin with a distance of 166-07, matching her PR. Three of her attempts (166-7, 165-0.25 and 162-4.25) would have qualified as the winning mark.
Woodard won the shot put on her final attempt with a mark of 54-03.25.
Picking up the fourth win of the day for OU was Rodriguez in the triple jump. She recorded a best jump of 40-05.50 to win the event, although all four of her legal marks (40-05.50, 40-03.75 twice, and 39-11.50) would have qualified as the winning mark. Her mark places her ninth in school history.
On the men’s side, Charles Nguyen won the hammer throw with 205-08 in the fifth round, setting a PR. Three of his attempts were over the 200-0 mark and would have given him the event title.
The men’s team finished in fourth with 100.50 points. Going into the meet, VanHootegem was searching for leadership on the men's side and was able to identify people who stepped into that role today.
"Charles and T.J. had that leadership that we have asked for on the men’s side, leading with big PRs. We had big PRs out of the 1500- and 800-meter runners, so we felt that we had some good stuff today from the men.”
Meia Gordon’s day resulted in two PRs and moving up on the program’s top 10 all-time list in both of her events.
In the shot put, she threw a 52-04.50 on her last attempt, securing a PR and a third-place finish. Gordon has improved on her best mark in every meet this outdoor season and moved into seventh in school history with her latest improvement. Later in the day, Gordon threw the eighth-best mark in school history in the discus, improving her PR in the event by over 4 feet with a mark of 169-02. She also had the best mark among college competitors.
“Meia was our outstanding performer with a big PR in the shot put and discus," praised VanHootegem. "For a freshman, she is really showing that she understands how to compete. Today was a major step forward for her.”
Woodard was fourth among college competitors with a toss of 155-07 in the discus. Jenny Carmichael finished directly behind her with a distance of 152-11.
T.J. Noonan moved into sixth in school history in the javelin while setting a PR of 212-10 en route to a third-place finish. It was the senior’s best mark since the 2014 season, his first year as a Sooner.
Ashley Bryant started off the day, and the meet for the Sooners, with a runner-up finish in the hammer throw, throwing 193-01 in the sixth round. Camille Burge finished 11th with a throw of 147-05. Bryant competed in the javelin as well, her first appearance in the event, and finished seventh with an opening-throw of 121-07.
Everette Favor and Lucas Kelley went 2-3 in the pole vault with their heights of 16-06.75 and 16-00.75, respectively. On the women’s side, Kenzie Shell was the highest college finisher, finishing runner-up with a height of 12-11.50.
Makayla Stephens finished fifth in the long jump with a mark of 17-10.75 and eighth in the high jump with a clearance of 5-03.75. Thomas Cheval finished in third in the long jump, with his sixth-round jump of 23-10.00.
In the college section of the men’s shot put, Bradley Daboub finished tied for fifth with 53-02.75.
Marcus Mitchell placed third in the triple jump with a final attempt of 49-04.25, while Joshua Foster was eighth with a mark of 47-07.75 on his third attempt.
The track events produced 13 PRs alone, nine of them coming in consecutive events.
Sarah Scott opened up the track portion of the day with a third-place finish in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, crossing the line at 10:56.41.
The 4x100-meter relay teams finished second in their respective events. The women’s team of Baileh Simms, Ama Pipi, Amanda Van Buren and Leya Buchanan finished in 44.91, behind the Bobby Kersee All-Stars, making them the fastest college relay team in the event. The men’s team of Greg Vann, Jackson Webb, Trae Armstrong and Bennie Wesley ran 40.40 to finish second.
Following the relays on the track were the 1500-meter runs, which resulted in two top-5 finishes on the women’s side and two PRs on the men’s side. Kelsey McKee (4:28.38) and Hayley Redwine (4:28.72) finished 3-4 in their event. Grayson Haws finished fourth with a time of 3:46.08, while Heath Warren (3:52.21) and Brendan Taylor (3:54.83) each set a PR to finish 11th and 15th. Taylor improved his time in the event by almost 30 seconds, while Warren improved by almost five seconds.
The men’s and women’s 800-meter run proved to be another successful event for OU as PRs were set by all four runners. Payton Baker finished as the runner-up with a time of 2:09.53 and Daunicia Demerson was third at 2:09.81. The PR trend continued into the men’s race with Calvin Miller finishing in 1:52.65 and Taylor Click at 1:54.74 to finish fourth and 11th, respectively.
In the 100-meter hurdles, Olivia Haggerty was the top college runner with a time of 13.76. Stephens ran 14.63 (sixth among college athletes) and Medinah Spencer registered a PR of 14.81 to finish ninth among college runners.
Spencer later ran the 400-meter hurdles, setting a PR with a time of 1:00.02 and as the second college runner to finish. Mia Mukes was the sixth college runner to cross the line at 1:02.82. Tyler Hart and Bryce Douglas went 3-4 (2-3 among college competitors) in their 400-meter hurdles race, with Hart setting a PR of 52.88 and Douglas behind him at 52.95.
Pipi was the top collegiate finisher in the 200-meter dash with a PR of 23.15, with Buchanan behind her at 23.69. Van Buren set a PR of her own with a finish of 24.09, which was the sixth-fastest time among college runners in the event.
The Sooners set at least one PR on the track in six straight events with the men’s 100-meter dash, the 800-meter runs, 400-meter hurdles and the women’s 200-meter dash.
In the men’s 200-meter dash, Webb was the first to finish for Oklahoma. He was sixth among college competitors with a 21.82.
Three members of the women’s relay team later ran on their own in the 100-meter dash, with Buchanan leading the Sooners. Buchanan was also the top college finisher in the event, clocking a time of 11.48. Van Buren registered a 11.97 (fourth among college competitors), Simms a 12.01 (sixth), and Haggerty a 12.65 (eighth).
Wesley ran in the 100-meter dash and finished third at 10.64, with Webb behind him with a PR of 10.65.
Zach Gentry capped the day filled with PRs with a PR in the 3,000-meter run, finishing runner-up in the event with a time of 8:34.53. He improved his time in the event by over seven seconds.
Closing the night for OU was the men’s 4x400-meter relay team of Hart, Click, LeRock and Miller, who finished sixth with 3:18.59.
The track and field teams are off next weekend, as they get ready to host the John Jacobs Invitational April 21-22. The two-day meet will be the final meet hosted in Norman this year, and will be Senior Day for the 26 seniors on Oklahoma’s roster.