EUGENE, Ore. — Courtney Frerichs became the first University of New Mexico female athlete to win an NCAA track and field title, capturing the 3,000-meter steeplechase in runaway fashion Saturday at the NCAA track and field championships.
Frerichs, a senior from Nixa, Mo., finished in an NCAA-record 9 minutes, 24.41 seconds — nearly 17 seconds faster than runner-up Jessica Kamilos of Arkansas (9:41.28). Frerichs’ emphatic performance at Hayward Field, site of next month’s United States Olympic Trials, prompted commentators to speculate that Frerichs established herself as a candidate to make the U.S. Olympic team.
Frerichs also paced New Mexico’s national championship cross-country run last November in Louisville, Ky., with a fourth-place finish. The Lobos’ 100-point margin of victory then was the largest in the meet since 2004.
“I was really emotional last night, thinking about how I couldn’t have done it without them,” Frerichs said in a post-race TV interview, asked to put perspective on this school year. “I’m thankful to share it with so many incredible women at New Mexico.”
Susan Vigil won the 800 meters as a Lobo at the AIAW Championships in 1979, when the NCAA did not sponsor women’s track-and-field competition.
Coupled with Alice Wright’s second-place finish in the 10,000 meters on Thursday, the 18 points at the outdoor meet represent a program best for the UNM women, as did their 15th-place finish. Arkansas won the meet with 72 points, eclipsing host and runner-up Oregon’s 62.
Frerichs, who finished second in last year’s event for Missouri-Kansas City before transferring to UNM, is the first Lobo athlete to win a national championship at the outdoor meet since Art Baxter won the men’s triple jump in 1967. She collapsed on the track seconds after crossing the finish line and realizing what she achieved.
Earlier, UNM’s Sophie Connor took 11th in the 12-runner 1,500 women’s final, coming in at 4:17.27. Later, the Lobos’ Callie Thackery started, but did not finish, the 5,000.
In the women’s triple jump, Lobos Jannell Hadnot and Aasha Marler placed 17th and 20th, respectively. Hadnot jumped 42 feet, 3¼ inches, Marler 41-8.
On Friday, Florida won the men’s team title, its third in five years, pushed into the points lead (62) with a second-place finish in the final event, the 4×400 relay. The Gators, who also won team titles in 2012 and 2013, spoiled hometown Oregon’s attempt at a third-straight team title at Hayward Field. The Ducks (48) finished fourth behind Arkansas (56) and Texas A&M (50).
Arkansas’ Jarrion Lawson was the winner in the 100 and 200 meters and the long jump at the NCAA track and field championships, becoming the first athlete to win all three since Jesse Owens did it 80 years ago.
“I’m proud of everything. This is just amazing, just to come out and win three events and be put in the same sentence as Jesse Owens,” he said.
Lawson, now a six-time national champion, won the 100 in in 10.22 seconds, closing to the victory over the final 30 meters. Less than an hour later he claimed the 200 in 20.19. He won the long jump Wednesday, the first day of the meet.
He accounted for 31.5 total points for the Razorbacks, also the most since Owens scored 40 in 1935 and 1936 for Ohio State. It was just the third time Lawson ran all three events at one meet.