The national championship, regardless the sport, serves as a platform for the best athletes to put their talents on display. The 2019 NCAA track and field championship faired no different.
Texas Tech won its first national championship by a margin of 10 points over second-place Florida.
“This is the best group I’ve ever had,” Texas Tech head coach Wes Kittley said. “To be able to bring that first national championship for the men to Texas Tech, I mean, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
But Tech’s historic performance would have to wait until the majority of running events were hosted Friday. Wednesday’s stellar performance of field events put on a show of their own.
Battling thunderstorms, scheduling move-ups, delays and borderline-unbearable humidity, the swamp schools of the SEC flourished on the first day of the meet, competing in the heat of the day thanks to a scheduling move-up.
While Wednesday was a preliminary day for most running events, fans’ eyes were drawn to the duel at the pole vaulting pit.
LSU’s Mondo Duplantis, the No. 3 vaulter in the world as of Wednesday, came into the meet having dominated his freshman year being widely regarded as the best pole vaulter in the NCAA. His matchup with defending champion Chris Nilsen of South Dakota more than lived up to the hype.
However, the duel between the two world-ranked competitors seemed to bring out the best from the rest of the pack, too.
An NCAA record seven vaulters cleared 18 feet, 8 ¼ inches on Wednesday before Duplantis and Nilsen emerged as the final two standing. But Nilsen, with every height he cleared, looked more shocked than the last.
Finally, after a grueling day of competition lasting more than three hours, Nilsen emerged the victor. Nilsen’s final clearance of 19 feet, 6 ¼ inches set a meet record.
“He jumped 5.95m (on his) first attempt. That’s tough to beat, whether it’s the NCAA’s or the Olympics,” runner-up Duplantis said. “I don’t want to complain. I don’t have any excuses to tell you. He just beat me today.”
Roughly 150 meters away at the javelin throw, Mississippi State’s trio of Anderson Peters, Curtis Thompson and Tyriq Horsford put on equally impressive performances, sweeping the javelin for the first time since 1964.
“It feels really good to be part of a team that was able to go 1-2-3 in the javelin,” Peters said. “I’m proud of everyone who was part of the competition.”
Two days later, the running events cleared the bar set by Wednesday’s field events.
Grant Holloway’s incredible 12.98 dash in the 110-meter hurdles marked the first time a collegiate runner surpassed the 13.00 second mark set 40 years ago by Renaldo Nehemiah. Equally as impressive, Daniel Roberts — who finished second — tied the 13.00 second mark.
“It was a good day just to have everybody here, have my parents here, but most of all, I finally broke the collegiate record,” Holloway said. “It hasn’t hit me yet, but it probably will in about two or three weeks.”
As the collegiate athletic year winds down, it’s hard not to think of the adage that records are made to be broken. If the 2019 NCAA championships proved anything, it’s that the old platitude holds true.