Meet Maggie Ewen, one of the NCAA’s Brightest Stars

Meet Maggie Ewen, one of the NCAA’s Brightest Stars

Magdalyn Ewen, a senior at Arizona State University, has accomplished things most collegiate athletes never even think about. Arguably the best female thrower in the NCAA, Ewen has two national championships under her belt and has been named a first team All-American (top eight in an event at nationals) a mind-boggling nine times. But even the world’s best athletes have to start somewhere.

For Ewen, that start came in St. Francis, Minn. when she was in fourth grade. From a very young age, Ewen had her own personal coach – her dad. Bruce Ewen was an All-American thrower, a seven-time Missouri Valley Conference champion at Illinois State, and went on to participate at the 1988 Olympic trials. Coming from a long-line of elite athletes, Ewen was set up for success. This success, however, didn’t come right away. “I wasn’t very good at first,” Ewen admitted, “Honestly, no one is good at it at first since it’s such a foreign movement pattern.”

Ewen may not have excelled at first, but her high school career ended up a very impressive one. By the time she graduated St. Francis High School in 2013, Ewen had earned seven individual state championships and had personal bests of 54′ 8.5″ and 171′ 9″ in the shot put and discus respectively. She holds the Minnesota state record in both of these events. Her marks are extremely elite for a high school thrower, so it’s no surprise that a lot of big-name schools wanted her for her collegiate career.

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Ewen throwing the discus in high school (http://www.startribune.com/ewen-puts-more-dents-in-the-track-and-field-record-book/210719121/)
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Ewen throwing the shot put in high school (http://www.mntrackhub.com/news_article/show/253841?referrer_id=295279)

Aside from Arizona State, Ewen’s other top choices for college were Colorado State and the University of Minnesota. “I chose ASU because I really liked the coach and they have a great tradition of successful throwers.”

After a redshirt freshman year (meaning she didn’t compete in meets), Ewen’s first year of collegiate competition brought her some impressive performances. She ended her first indoor season with a second place finish in the shot put and a third place finish in the weight at her conference meet. When she headed outdoors, her success didn’t slow down. She went to the preliminary round of nationals for shot put, discus and hammer, and qualified for nationals in the shot and the disc (where she placed 22nd and 12th respectively).

Naturally, Ewen’s success continued throughout the next couple years. 2017, her third year of eligibility, ended up being her most exciting. At indoor nationals, she placed fourth in the shot put and sixth in the weight. Outdoors, she swept the Pac-12 Conference championships, winning all three of her events. Just a month later, she scored 21 points in three event at outdoor nationals, outscoring more than 40 teams all by herself. She finished the meet as an All-American in all three events, placing sixth in the shot put, second in the discus, and winning the hammer title. Her winning hammer throw also happened to be a collegiate record.

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With immense success in four different throwing events, how is a person supposed to choose a favorite? For Ewen, this is an easy question. “My favorite event is the discus. It was the first event I started throwing and the only one I threw for the first three years of my career. Even with all my success in my other events, the discus is still my baby!”

Even with all of her success, Ewen still holds her roots close to her heart. “My favorite memories of track and field are going out and training with my dad in the early days. Back then, we only threw because we loved to do it. There was no breaking records or winning titles; it was just throwing to throw and it was so much fun.”

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Indoor Nationals Day 2

Indoor Nationals Day 2

With a Day 1 jam-packed with personal bests and impressive performances, it was only expected that Day 2 would follow suit – and I was not disappointed. A full list of results from the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships can be found here.

Penn State sophomore David Lucas became Day 2’s first national champion after winning the men’s weight. Lucas threw a personal best and facility record setting 24.02 meters (78′ 9″). Lucas’ performance becomes particularly notable when considered he was ranked fourth entering the meet and ended up winning the championship by more than a meter. Talk about turning a high-pressure situation into a positive outcome, a challenge many athletes struggle to do.

Kentucky’s Tim Duckworth finished what he started on Day 1 by winning the men’s heptathlon title with 6188 points. Following two event wins on Day 1, Duckworth won the pole vault and placed sixth in the 60 meter hurdles to stay ahead of the pack. This was his lowest finish of the seven events besides his 15th place finish in the 1,000 meter run.

Defending champion Josh Kerr earned the gold in the men’s mile, crossing the finish line at 3:57.02. Two other athletes completed the race in less than four minutes, earning the silver and bronze medals. Only 20 people (in all age groups – including professionals) have run sub-4:00 miles so far in 2018.

The three podium finishers for the men’s 60 meter dash are separated by just three hundredths of a second. Houston senior Elijah Hall crossed the finish line at 6.52 seconds, closely followed by Raheem Chambers of Auburn at 6.53 and Demek Kemp of South Carolina State at 6.55. This is a personal best for all three of these athletes, yet another example of turning high pressure into positive results. The three were ranked third, sixth and fourth respectively going into the meet.

Yet another facility record was broken when Georgia senior Keturah Orji triple-jumpd her way to a national championship. Orji jumped 14.27 meters (46′ 10″), beating the second-place finisher by one foot. This marks Orji’s sixth NCAA championship title. Her jump was also a meet record, meaning no female at indoor nationals has ever jumped farther than Orji. Orji earned the silver medal in the long jump less than 24 hours before her victory in the triple jump.

In my opinion, the most impressive performance of the meet came from USC sophomore Michael Norman. Norman earned the gold in the men’s 400 meter dash, setting four records along the way. His time of 44.52 seconds set a facility record, meet record, collegiate record, AND a world record. He ran the fastest 400 meter time ever recorded on arguably one of the most nerve-racking stages in the track and field world.

Another USC quarter-miler, this time senior Kendall Ellis, saw great success in her race. Ellis earned the gold in the women’s 400 meter dash with a time of 50.34 seconds. Just like her teammate Norman, Ellis’ time set a new facility, meet, and collegiate record. Talk about a clean sweep!

Not shockingly, yet another facility record was set in the women’s weight throw. Minnesota senior Kaitlyn Long threw 23.30 meters to win the title, followed by Annette Echikunwoke of Cincinnati who trailed by just one centimeter. Maggie Ewen, Friday night’s shot put national champion, finished fourth with a personal best toss of 22.26 meters. Long is just Minnesota’s second national champion in program history.

Grant Holloway, a sophomore from the University of Florida, remains undefeated in championship races. He claimed his third individual championship in the 60 meter hurdles with a time of 7.47. Holloway also finished second in the long jump on Day 1.

Missouri senior Karissa Schweizer, who won the women’s 5,000 meter run on Day 1, also claimed the national championship in the 3,000 meter run with a time of 8:53.36.

Yet another collegiate record was set in the women’s 200 meter dash. Harvard senior Gabrielle Thomas earns the gold and sets the record with a time of 22.38 seconds.

In the men’s 4×400 meter relay, 400 meter champion and collegiate record holder Michael Norman anchored USC’s relay to a world record time of 3:00.77.

With all 17 events scored, two team national champions have been crowned. On the men’s side, the University of Florida secured it’s title with a third place finish in the final event, the 4×400 meter relay. The Florida men scored 40 points, beating out second-place USC by three points and third-place Georgia by eight points. Virginia Tech and Texas A&M round out the top five. On the women’s side, the University of Georgia won the title with 61 points. Arkansas claimed the silver with 49 points, and Kentucky earned the bronze with 34 points. Florida and Oregon round out the top five.

Off to the Races: Indoor Nationals Day 1

Off to the Races: Indoor Nationals Day 1

Today is a very special day in the world of track and field; the 2018 NCAA indoor championships begin TODAY. The best of the best from each event are gathered in College Station, Texas this weekend to fight for individual golds and team championships. Men’s and women’s shot put, men’s and women’s long jump, men’s pole vault, women’s high jump, women’s pentathlon, men’s and women’s 5,000 meter run, and men’s and women’s distance medley relay will all have a national champion by the end of the day. The 60 meter dash up through the one mile run will all have prelims today, with the eight best times in each event advancing to finals tomorrow. A full schedule and live meet results can be found here.

 

The men’s heptathlon completed four events on Day 1, with three more events schedules for Day 2 on Saturday. At the end of four events, Tim Duckworth of Kentucky leads the pack with more than 3600 points. Duckworth won the 60 meter dash and the long jump, was runner-up in the high jump, and placed fifth in the shot put.

Since the women’s pentathlon has only five events, the entire competition was completed on Day 1. Taliyah Brooks, a senior from Arkansas, was crowned the first champion of the 2018 indoor national meet.

The women’s 60 meter dash saw one dominant team: LSU. All four LSU women entered in the event finished in the top eight and are scheduled to compete in the finals on Saturday.

Reigning champion in the men’s mile Josh Kerr lead the field in prelims, with an official time of 4:02.03. All 10 finalists are separated by less than three seconds.

The second event of the day to crown a winner was the women’s shot put. Maggie Ewen of Arizona State is the national champion with a toss of 18.49 meters, or 60′ 8″. Emmonnie Henderson of Louisville earned the silver with a throw of 17.77 meters (58′ 3″) and Oklahoma senior Jessica Woodard rounded out the podium finishes with a throw of 17.37 meters (57′ 0″).

Shortly after the conclusion of the shot put, the men’s long jump competition also crowned a national champion: Will Williams of Texas A&M. Williams jumped a distance of 8.19 meters, which is just short of 27 feet, to claim the gold. Florida’s Grant Holloway, who won the prelims of the men’s 60 meter hurdles earlier in the night, placed second in the long jump with a personal best jump of 8.13 meters. Holloway was leading the event until Williams set a personal best and broke the Texas A&M school record on his last jump.

Both sections of the 400 meter dash saw multiple personal bests and a ton of impressive performances. Kentucky freshman Sydney McLaughlin lead the pack in the women’s competition, running a time of 51.34 seconds. USC sophomore Michael Normal won the men’s prelims with a time of 45.56 seconds.

In the men’s pole vault, Kansas junior Hussain Alhizam set a personal best and broke the facility record to win the championship with a vault of 5.70 meters (18′ 8″). Two competitors tied with a best attempt of 5.60 meters, earning second and third place.

Houston senior Elijah Hall won the men’s 200 meter prelims with a personal best time of 20.26 seconds. He beat the runner-up by more than two tenths of a second, a fairly large margin in such a short race.

On the women’s side, Harvard junior Gabrielle Thomas leads the pack going into tomorrow’s 200 meter dash final. She ran a person best time of 22.66 seconds.

Three women cleared a height of 1.87 meters in the high jump. Nicole Greene of North Carolina cleared the height on her first attempt, earning her the gold medal and a national championship. Loretta Blaut of Cincinnati cleared the height in two attempts, earning her the silver medal. Logan Boss of Mississippi state cleared the height on her third and final attempt, earning herself the bronze.

Syracuse junior Justyn Knight earned the gold in the men’s 5,000 meter run with a time of 14:14.47. All scoring competitors (top eight) finished the 25-lap race within three seconds of Knight.

Colorado State senior Mostafa Hassan was crowned national champion in the men’s shot put with a toss of 20.86 meters, nearly 68 and a half feet. Two other competitors surpassed the 20-meter mark, Denzel Comenentia of Georgia and Josh Awotunde of South Carolina placed second and third with throws of 20.29 and 20.15 respectively.

A full list of Day 1 results can be found here. With six events scored, the Georgia women lead with 33 points. Florida is sitting in second place with 13 points, and New Mexico rounds out the top three with 12 points. With five events scored on the men’s side, Virginia Tech leads with 16 points. Texas A&M trails by just half of a point in second, followed by Florida and Alabama tied for third with 11 points. Tune back in tomorrow for results and news from Day 2 of the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships, right here on Tilted Track.

SEC: NCAA Track and Field’s Most Elite

SEC: NCAA Track and Field’s Most Elite

There is a reason that the Southeast Conference is a core member of the Power 5. People love to join the Alabama football bandwagon and then cheer for Kentucky during March Madness, but aside from their impressive track record (no pun intended) in other sports, they have dominated the track and field scene for quite some time. In order to win a team national title, pretty much everything has to go right at the championship meet. Frankly, everything has to go right during the season to build up to the championships. Teams need to get as many individual athletes qualified as possible in order to get as many opportunities to score as they can.

I want to give a quick rundown of how meets are scored to preface this article. That way, you will be able to understand how impressive it is to win a national team title, which is my main point of interest for this argument. 16 people in each event qualify for the national meet (indoor and outdoor). Out of these 16, the top eight receive points for their team (first place gets 10 points, second place gets eight points, third place gets six points, and fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth place get five, four, three, two and one respectively). It’s a simple system that illustrates a lot about a track and field team as a whole.

I could write this entire article and make copious amounts of arguments in favor of SEC track based on their success just this year. Nearly 60 pages of notes were released analyzing and compiling results from the SEC teams indoor track season. It’s mind-boggling. This article is about history and longevity, but keep in mind that they are currently dominating the NCAA in track and field, they have not lost their mojo.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the tell-tale signs of a REALLY solid track and field is a national team championship. Any school can recruit and acquire one stud athlete who succeeds at a national level. Winning a team championship is a whole different beast. In the past 35 years on the men’s side, an SEC school has won the indoor national team title 27 times. The Arkansas men have a staggering 20 indoor titles since 1984. In the past 35 years on the women’s side, an SEC school has won the indoor national title 15 times. The LSU women have the most titles of any indoor women’s team, earning 11 titles since 1987.

Track and field is unique because there are two seasons. Indoor and outdoor track are virtually two different sports. Winning nationals indoors versus outdoors require two different skill sets and team dynamics – all the bases have to be covered to be a successful team in both seasons. In the past 35 years on the men’s side at outdoor nationals, an SEC school has claimed 23 team titles. The Arkansas men again have the most outdoor team titles, winning 10 times since 1985. All-time, the USC men have won an impressive 26 team titles, their first being in 1926 and their most recent being in 1976. This illustrates the SEC’s longevity and ability to be good for a very long time, another impressive feat in track and field. On the women’s side, an SEC school has earned the outdoor team title 21 times in the past 30 years. Not surprisingly, the LSU women have earned 14 team titles since 1987, proving their dominance.

In 1994, the Tennessee men won the indoor team championship with 94 points. If you refer to the score chart I provided earlier, you would understand why this is impressive. Since 10 is the most points an athlete can score in a single event, this team had a minimum of 10 athletes score at a national meet (more than likely a LOT more than that). To have 10 national-caliber athletes on a single team is insane and unbelievably impressive. At least half of the SEC schools have track and field teams that are capable of reaching this level of success, making them a clear candidate for the “Best Track and Field Conference” award.

 

USTFCCCA: Looking Ahead and Looking Back

USTFCCCA: Looking Ahead and Looking Back

In a post I made a few days ago, I made some predictions about some athletes I think will win. Since that post, some more information has been released, including the completed schedule of events for the two-day competition.

LOOKING AHEAD

Firstly, the team rankings were published by United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA – despite it’s messy name it is an official organization, I promise), stating which men’s teams and which women’s teams are projected to score the most points at the national meet. These articles and projections are fascinating, I highly suggest checking them out!

On the women’s side, The University of Georgia is the number one seed, bringing 11 athletes to College Station, Texas – including an NCAA-leading five jumpers. Arkansas, ranked second, has 12 women on the nationals roster. The Razorbacks are tied for the most entires with seventh-place defending champion Oregon. Despite being low in the rankings, the Ducks have a chance to repeat with entries in nine different events. Kentucky, LSU, and Southern California round out the top five women’s teams. Kentucky has an NCAA-high three athletes sitting atop the leaderboard, in the 400 meter dash, the 60 meter hurdles and the pole vault.

For the men, Texas Tech is in the number one spot, boasting 10 meet entires (tied with fourth-place Arkansas for the most entries). Tech has two nation-leading athletes as well as one runner-up. Southern California (number five) and New Mexico (number 18) are the only other schools with two athletes atop the leaderboard going into the meet. Georgia and Florida sit in spots two and three respectively. Meet host and defending team champion and Texas A&M sits just outside the top five in sixth place.

LOOKING BACK

Outside of meet rankings, USTFCCCA also announced their award winners for the top athletes and coaches of the 2018 indoor season. One person from each region (great lakes, mid-atlantic, midwest, mountain, northeast, south, south central, southeast and west) is awarded in each category (track athlete, field athlete, assistant coach, and head coach of the year on both the men’s and women’s sides) for a total of 72 honorees. Not shockingly, every athlete nominee earned a ticket to indoor nationals.

Penn State (men’s track, men’s field, and women’s track) and University of Georgia (men’s field, women’s track, and women’s field) tied with three athletes each earning regional awards. Ohio State, New Mexico, Texas Tech, New Hampshire and Kentucky all had two nominated athletes.

With so many talented athletes and teams competing at nationals and earning prestigious awards, the world of NCAA track and field is in for a treat this weekend. Stay updated on all things nationals right here on Tilted Track, where I’ll be covering the meet all weekend. I’ll see you all in College Station, Texas.