Texas A&M freshman Sammy Watson won the 800m final amid adverse weather conditions in front of a crowd of 12,998 on the final day of the NCAA Championships held at Hayward Field.
In cool conditions, with temperatures in the low 50s, and showers that turned into downpours, Watson drove to the finish line as she took over the lead off the last turn of the race. Finishing first in 2:04.21 earned Watson the victory with a lean at the line over a 2:04.33 by Abike Egbeniyi of Middle Tennessee State.
“I couldn’t let the conditions get to me,” noted Watson. “It’s outdoors, so you can race in anything. Knowing that I could perform under the pressure and all the conditions, I’m really proud of myself.
Texas A&M totaled 15 points in the women’s national championship meet, placing 19th in team scoring.
USC won the women’s team title with 53 points to prevent Georgia from completing a men’s and women’s sweep of team championships. The Bulldogs were runner-up with 52 points. In third place was Stanford with 51 points.
Watson became just the third freshman to win the NCAA Outdoor 800m title and the first since 2015 when Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers achieved the feat. The only other frosh winner was Oregon’s Rebekah Noble in 2006.
“The weather was horrible here today, so it’s a testament to this young ladies strength and her will,” said Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry. “She wanted to win today.
“Plus she was racing against the NCAA Indoor champion, Sabrina Southerland, who is from Oregon. The cards were stacked against her. She was a freshman, bad elements and Oregon had a favorite in the meet. Sammy just did a fantastic job in winning the race.”
Texas A&M’s Jazmine Fray, who finished eighth in 2:07.34, led the field through 200m in 28.1, 400m in 1:00.89 and at 600m in 1:32.9.
As positions changed through the final curve, Watson put herself in position to contend for the victory while Fray was passed by the rest of the field. Watson covered the first lap in 1:01.08 and ran the second lap in 1:03.13. Fray, meanwhile, ran the second lap in 1:06.45.
“I knew it was going to be close because we were still in a pack with 200m to go,” stated Watson. “I just had to stay relaxed and not panic. On the homestretch I saw the girl out of the corner of my eye and on the big screen. I knew I just had to pump my arms and finish my race.”
Watson and Fray became the first Aggie women to score for Texas A&M in the NCAA Outdoor 800m.
In the 4x100 relay, the Aggies placed seventh with a time of 44.26. The A&M foursome included Amber Ivy, Diamond Spaulding, Brenessa Thompson, and Julia Madubuike. LSU won the race in 42.25 over Oregon (43.06) and USC (43.11). SEC schools also placed 4-5-6 with Kentucky (43.49), Auburn (43.76), and Alabama (44.05). Florida State finished eighth in 44.30.
Tyra Gittens finished eighth in the heptathlon with a score of 5,748 points, the second best tally in her career, while teammate Shaina Burns scored 5,553 to place 14th.
Gittens, who was third after the first day, remained in that position through the long jump and javelin. She produced the top mark in the long jump as her 20-1 ¾ (6.14) scored 893 points. In the javelin her final attempt of 121-11 (37.17) added 613 points. In the 800m, a time of 2:29.95 picked up 694 points, but Gittens dropped five places in the standings.
Burns set a career best in the long jump as her 18-5 ¾ (5.63) scored 738 points. In the javelin her toss of 133-3 (40.62) added 679. Then a 2:23.05 wrapped up her day with 783 points.
Serena Brown placed 13th in the discus with a mark of 165-7 (50.48). In the triple jump, Lajarvia Brown placed 11th with a mark of 43-3 ¼ (13.19) while Ciynamon Stevenson finished 14th with a 42-8 ¾ (13.02).