Jones Sets Collegiate Record in Day One of NCAAs
Jones Sets Collegiate Record in Day One of NCAAs
EUGENE, Ore. -- Akela Jones highlighted day one competition of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships for K-State Track and Field, breaking a 30-year old collegiate record en route to taking the lead in the women's heptathlon. She was joined by fellow Wildcats Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye and Terrell Smith in competition on the day, with Otuonye, in particular, nabbing second team All-American honors in the long jump.
Jones Makes History
While there's still three events left to play out to crown the heptathlon national champion, Akela Jones made quite the statement in day one action. Competing in only the second heptathlon of her career, Jones shined to the tune of 4,023 points over the first four events to hold a 219-point lead over reigning champ Kendell Williams of Georgia. Along with holding the day one lead, Jones also set the collegiate record for a day one point total, besting the previous record set by three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee of 3,942 points in 1985.
Well on pace to break the program record of 6,275 points set by another Olympic medalist in Austra Skujyte, Jones' day one performance included top-10 program heptathlon marks in three of the four events.
Head coach Cliff Rovelto praised Jones for an all-around dominant performance.
"Individually, you go through all the events and she did really, really well. Obviously that means collectively, she did well. To be over 4,000 points in the first day is a world-class level performance, so she had a phenomenal first day," Rovelto said.
Jones opened action with a bang, clocking a school record time of 13.10 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles to snag 1,109 points. Bested only by Williams at 13.08, Jones' time was still a monster PR in wind-legal conditions, broke Lisi Maurer's program record mark of 13.12 seconds, as well as shattered Ryann Krais' program-best heptathlon time of 13.56 seconds.
She would continue to excel in the following two events, the high jump and shot put, nabbing top-finishes in both by a considerable margin.
In the high jump, Jones went six-for-six in bars cleared, finishing at 1.84m/6-00.50 and was the lone athlete to not miss a bar at a cleared height -- she bowed out along with Mississippi State's Erica Bougard at 1.87m/6-01.50. Narrowly missing her career-best clearance of 1.87m, Jones' final mark was still a multi career-best and placed her at No. 2 in school history among heptathletes.
The shot put, meanwhile, saw Jones hit big on her second throw of the day at 14.85m/48-08.75 to place first over Georgia's Quintunya Chapman (14.56m/47-09.25). Easily surpassing her previous career high of 14.16m/46-05.50 by more than two feet, Jones' mark also again moved her up the program heptathlon top-10 to No. 2 in school history.
She finished up day one in the 200-meter dash, clocking a wind-assisted 23.45w (3.2) to place a close second to Nikki Larch-Miller of Wichita State (23.36w (3.2)). Though not a wind-legal time, Jones' 200m time was an all-conditions PR and the fastest ran by a Wildcat not named A'Keyla Mitchell in the event this season.
Rovelto said even with the impressive performances in events one through four, Jones had room to improve.
"The hurdles was a lifetime PR, the fastest she's ever run and a school record. That was really good. She was actually getting close to the hurdles at the end of the race, struggling to stay away from them. She probably could have hit sub-13 if not for that, but her performance was great," Rovelto said.
As for the high jump and shot put, "Her high jump was very good. She's only done two heptathlons in her life and she jumped higher at this one than she did [at the Jayhawk Classic]. And probably based on how she's jumped today and how she's jumped recently, honestly could have made the bar at 1.87m. It was still a very solid result. The shot was a significant PR. Everything about the shot was very good, the warm-up was good, her throws were good. You kind of knew she was going to hit big on one of her throws because she was really going for it."
Rovelto added that Jones' 200-meter performance may have been her best, "Arguably though, the most impressive showing of the day, in my book, was the 200. That's the fastest she's ever run in her life and to do that out of lane one in a heptathlon is unbelievable. I thought, under decent conditions in an outside lane, she would be in the range of 23.40-23.50, which she ran, but I never thought she'd do that out of lane one with how tall she is."
Jones, who didn't relinquish the lead on the day following the high jump, will look to keep the strong performances rolling starting at 2 p.m. CT tomorrow with the long jump, an event she finished the season ranked ninth in the country.
Otuonye and Smith Star for the Men
Both Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye and Terrell Smith made their Outdoors debuts of sorts, with Otuonye competing individually for the first time nationally in the long jump and the freshman Smith running as one of three first-year sprinters in Eugene, Oregon, in the 200-meter dash.
Otuonye, who last competed at NCAAs in 2013 as part of the 4x100-meter relay squad, leapt a wind-assisted 7.69m/25-02.75 to place 11th-overall. Nabbing second team honors for his effort, Otuonye became the fourth-straight men's Wildcat to earn All-American honors in the event outdoors.
For the junior from Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos, the All-American nod is the first of his career, as he marked 25 feet or better for the fourth time this season -- an impressive showing considering Otuonye entered the season with an overall personal best of 7.50m/24-07.25.
Rovelto said though Otuonye didn't crack the event's top-eight -- he was in ninth following his second jump, but could not improve upon his mark in the third round to eventually finish 11th -- there's plenty of positives to take away from the performance by this season's Big 12 long jump champion.
"Physically, Ifeanyi looked as good as he has looked all year long," Rovelto said. "His warm-up was solid. His first jump, he got a little too hyped and fouled on a jump that would have been good enough to get him into the final. The second jump was not a great technical jump, but it just shows just how much he has improved physically that he can still jump over 25 feet with a not great technical jump. And the third one, he just got too amped and was too far over at the take off.
"But again, what he jumped today was well over his PR from what he jumped a year ago. He's had a pretty phenomenal last couple months of this season and he's virtually improved every single weekend over the last couple months. So, he's had a great season and I know he still has a couple more meets to look forward to over the summer."
On the track, Smith clocked 20.88 seconds to finish 21st out of a field of 24 runners. Despite the tough result, Smith's time was extremely impressive considering just how deep this season's 200-meter field is for the men. Clocking sub-21 seconds for a seventh time this season, Smith's mark in the event semifinals would have placed him tied for ninth overall in last year's semis.
Said Rovelto, "Really for Terrell, it's kind of hard to run fast out of lane one. And still he ran a legal 20.88 out of lane one, which over the course of the year he's only ran faster than that a couple times. So, for a freshman after a long year to come here and run solid like that is pretty good. I know he's disappointed he didn't run faster and what not, but that's pretty solid. That's a very good result for an athlete in his first national meet."
Akela Jones in the heptathlon, Sara Savatovic in the hammer throw and Dani Winters in the shot put will all be on the hunt for the Wildcats' first national title in any event outdoors since 2012, while A'Keyla Mitchell in the 200-meter dash, Tia' Gamble in the 400-meter hurdles and the women's 4x400 look to qualify for their respective event finals. Jones will kick off action for the K-State women starting at 2 p.m. Updates on the all of the day's action for K-State can be found on Twitter via @kstate_gameday under #KStateTF.
NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships (Day I)
21: Terrell Smith, 20.88 (1.8)
11: Ifeanyichukwu Otuonye, 7.69m/25-02.75w (2.1)
1: Akela Jones, 4,023 pts. -- Collegiate Record for Day One
100H: 13.10 (0.9) -- 1,109 pts. -- Personal best, school & school heptathlon record
HJ: 1.84m/6-00.50 -- 1,029 pts. -- 2nd-best in school heptathlon history
SP: 14.85m/48-08.75 -- 851 pts. -- 2nd-best in school heptathlon history
200m: 23.45w (3.2) -- 1,034 pts.