EUGENE – A third consecutive title in the 400-meter hurdles was claimed in a career best time of 53.51 seconds by Texas A&M junior Shamier Little as she became just the second female to accomplish the feat at the NCAA Championships on Saturday in front of 12,947 fans.
With 19 points on the final day of the meet, the Aggie women totaled 35 for the weekend to place fifth in team scoring. Arkansas won the team title with 72 points over Oregon’s 62 followed by Georgia (41) and Texas (36).
This is the 10th consecutive year for the Texas A&M women to place among the top five at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, which includes four national titles, one runner-up and a trio of third-place finishes.
Little joined UCLA’s Janeene Vickers (1989-91) in garnering three consecutive NCAA titles in the 400m hurdles. Little has accomplished her trio of titles as a freshman, sophomore and junior while Vickers started her string as a sophomore.
On a breezy day Little had a bit of company during the first half of the race. USC’s Jaide Stepter, running in lane 7, pushed the pace while Arizona’s Sage Watson, in lane 3, tried to maintain the stagger on Little, who occupied lane 4.
Through the final curve, though, it was Little in command of the race while a group of five hurdlers were nearly even at the eighth hurdle. As Little cruised to the finish line for her third NCAA victory, Kentucky’s Kiah Seymore placed second in 54.67 with Watson third at 54.85. Harvard’s Autumne Franklin (54.91) and LSU’s Chanice Chase (54.94) rounded out the top five while Stepter (55.30) placed sixth.
This final produced the most hurdlers under 55 seconds with five, topping the previous best of four in 1996.
“I was really focused on my race,” noted Little. “I don’t feel the wind when I’m racing, so it didn’t affect me. Going through the race I don't think about it, I’m focused on pushing and that usually eliminates the wind. It was kind of the same situation as last year’s race with the wind. Today was no different.
“I knew I couldn’t let too many people either get ahead of me or let them come up on me. Winning a third NCAA title and with that time is so exciting. It just builds my confidence up so much more.”
Little is the current world and American leader for the 2016 season. Her time of 53.51 ranks Little second on the all-time collegiate list as she improved her Aggie school record of 53.74 from last season’s NCAA final. Little only trails the collegiate record of 53.21 set in 2013 by Stanford’s Kori Carter.
In claiming her 14th consecutive win on the Hayward Field track, Little earned a sixth significant title of her collegiate career. In addition to the three NCAA championships, Little won the USATF title in 2015 along with the US Junior and World Juniors crowns in 2014.
Another two-time defending champion entering the meet was Aggie senior Shelbi Vaughan, who ended up sixth in her title defense with a throw of 194-7 (59.32). Wisconsin’s Kelsey Card reached a distance of 208-5 (63.52) to unseat Vaughan as this year’s winner over a 201-7 by Kellion Knibb of Florida State and a 201-6 from Stanford’s Valarie Allman.
The series for Vaughan, who threw in the first to two flights along with Card, included marks of 186-6, foul, 194-7, 184-2, 192-9 and 194-6.
“I had a couple of warm-up throws that went far,” noted Vaughan. “All season practice has been amazing, but I’m just waiting for those throws to show up in competition. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown in the first flight of a competition during the 10 years I’ve been throwing. It was a little different.”
Texas A&M placed fourth in the sprint relay with a time of 42.95. It’s the first time over the past 10 years in which the Aggies didn’t win or place second in this relay. The 4x100 crew consisted of Jennifer Madu, Diamond Spaulding, Brenessa Thompson and Aaliyah Brown.
LSU claimed the relay title in 42.65, improving upon the Hayward Stadium record of 42.76 that LSU set in 1996, while USC (42.90) and Oregon (42.91) finished second and third.
Madu later finished eighth in the 100m with a wind-aided 11.27 (2.6 wind). It was the fourth consecutive time for Madu to reach the NCAA final as she joined an elite group of sprinters to accomplish the feat.
Annie Kunz completed the heptathlon with a score of 5,784 points to place ninth. She missed the final scoring position of eighth by 49 points. Her total is the eighth best performance on the Texas A&M all-time list.
The second day of the heptathlon opened with an 18-2 ½ long jump (715 points) and was followed by a 135-1 (41.17) career best in the javelin for 690 points. Kunz then ran 2:19.41 in the 800m for 832 points.
Georgia’s Kendell Williams won the heptathlon title with 6,225 points ahead of Erica Bougard of Mississippi State (6,088) and Kansas State’s Akela Jones (6,063).