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Texas women set record in 4x100 relay NCAA track championships

Mar 16, 2023

There's nothing slow about the Texas women's track and field team – including the amount of time it took to make its mark at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships

In their first race of the meet Thursday at Myers Stadium, the Longhorns broke their own collegiate record with a time of 41.55 seconds in one of the three semifinals of the 4x100-meter women's relay. The race did more than propel the defending national champions into Saturday's finals; it sent the strongest of signals to the rest of the field about the Longhorns’ intention to win a fifth national team championship.

"It's amazing, and it's cool to get that momentum going to kind of give us energy for the rest of the championships," said Rhasidat Adeleke, a junior who ran the third leg for the team.

The relay seemed to set the tone for the first full day of the women's competition, especially among the sprinters. All four members of the relay team qualified for the finals on other events; leadoff runner Julien Alfred had the fastest qualifying time in the 100 (10.99) and 200 (22.33), anchor Kevona Davis finished third in the 100 in 11.04 and tied for first in the 200 (22.33), Ezinne Abba placed seventh in the 100 (11.11) after running the second leg, and Adeleke had the second-fastest qualifying time in the 400 (49.86).

In addition, Texas senior Lanae Thomas reached the women's 200 finals after finishing fifth in the semifinals in 22.42. The only down note for the Texas women sprinters came in the in the 4x400 relay, which the Longhorns won but were disqualified for "flagrantly impeding" another team. Texas was considered a favorite to win gold in the event, along with Arkansas.

Arguably the most dominant collegiate women's 4x100 team in history, a second consecutive gold medal seems almost inevitable for the Longhorns. Their semifinal marked the third time this season that Texas has broken its own collegiate record, and the Longhorns have the five fastest times of the year in the event.

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To put Texas' 4x100 relay team's record run into context, one has to look into the world record books. The team would have finished third at last year's world championships behind the United States and Jamaica, and the former Soviet Union and the former East Germany are the only other 4x100 relay national teams to ever record a faster time – and those last two countries competed in a Cold War era marred by rampant steroid use.

Such international comparisons are fitting for the Texas relay team, which is represented by four different countries. Alfred is from the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia, Abba hails from Southern California, Adeleke represents Ireland, and Davis is Jamaican.

At times, it seems no one has a tougher job than Texas head track and field coach Edrick Floréal, who must select the competitors from a formidable fleet of sprinters as well as the order for the relays.

But there's never any doubt about how the system works, Adeleke said.

"You know, as we say, Flo knows," said Adeleke, referring to her coach. "So whatever he says, we trust him. You know, he's been in the game for so long, and we have somebody who is well respected in the game. So anything that he says goes, he kind of put us up together as a team and it's worked out. It's all about chemistry, and we have that as a team."

The 400 could prove to be one of Saturday's most competitive races. Adeleke, the Irish record holder and the Big 12 champion at both the indoor and outdoor meet, cruised to a win in her heat with a time of 49.86. She’ll face a stern test Saturday against Arkansas’ Britton Wilson, the collegiate record holder in the 400 and the SEC champion in both the 400 and 400 hurdles who led all 400 qualifiers with a semifinal time of 49.36.

The 100 and 200 could turn into a burnt-orange battle for gold, although several runners could threaten the Longhorns’ hopes of sharing the podium. USC's Caisja Chandler is coming on strong after running a personal-best of 22.37 in the 200 which placed her third in qualifying behind the Texas duo of Alfred and Davis. In the 100, Texas Tech's Rosemary Chukwuma squeezed between Alfred and Davis with a second-place time of 11.01.

Texas grad student Kennedy Simon fell short of the finals in the women's 400 with a 10th-place time of 51.25. … Texas junior Marilyn Nwora placed 11th in the shot put with a ark off 55 feet, 7 inches. …Monica Hebner placed 21st in the finals of the 10,000 with a time of 35:39.23. … In a loaded 800 heat that featured the top three NCAA seed, No. 2 Valery Tobias of Texas finished second behind top-ranked Michaela Rose of LSU with a time of 2:00.68 to automatically qualify.

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