2024 NCAA Track & Field Championships, Observations on Day 2, by Paul Merca

When we last left you, Texas’s Leo Neugebauer led the decathlon field at the NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships in Eugene with a first-day score of 4685 points, the best first-day score in collegiate history.


Leo Neugebauer, 110m hurdles Event 6/10, Decathlon, photo by Paul Merca/

That said, the question entering day two of the NCAAs was whether or not he could continue to ride the wave and possibly get to the 9000-point barrier, a mark only four men—France’s Kevin Mayer (9126), American Ashton Eaton (9045), the Czech Republic’s Roman Šebrle (9026), and Canada’s Damian Warner (9018) have accomplished.



The few hard-core multi-event fans who entered Hayward Field at 11:30 a.m. local time were treated to a show, as the German recorded a time of 14.36 in the 110-meter hurdles to begin the day. In event seven, Neugebauer set the world record in the decathlon discus with his first-round throw of 189-4 (57.70m), breaking Bryan Clay’s previous record of 183-3 (55.87m) set in 2005.



After taking care of the discus, Neugebauer won his second event of the day, matching his personal best in the pole vault, clearing 17-1 (5.21m). This gave him an eight-event score of 7622 points, the best in world history.


Leo Neugebauer, pole vault, event 8/10, photo by Paul Merca/ PaulMercablogspot

Neugebauer finished fourth in the javelin with a throw of 185-10 (56.64m) to give him 8309 points after nine events, with only a time of 4:38.38 or faster in the climactic 1500 meter run needed to crack 9000 points, which would require setting a personal best in the event, as he went into Eugene with a PR of 4:42.68.



It was not to be, as Neugebauer ducked in the back of the pack, finishing 20th of the 23 remaining decathletes in 4:44.61.



In the mixed zone, Neugebauer was aware of the splits needed to get 9000, but about halfway through the race, he knew he didn’t have enough in the tank.



“I can say I tried, but the end score is unbelievable.”



On what it means to be the sixth-highest performer, he said, “It shows how much potential I have. To put something like this together is magnificent.”



Neugebauer was the world leader in the decathlon last year going into the world championships in Budapest, but “choked” in the 110 hurdles and discus to start day 2 last year.



The takeaway from Budapest that he took into this season was not to worry about the competition and not let things affect you mentally.



Neugebauer, who is now one of the favorites to medal at the Paris Olympics this summer, returns to the field Friday in the open discus competition.



*Thursday was ladies’ night at the NCAA championships, and with apologies to Kool and the Gang, the feeling’s right.



Florida’s Parker Valby, whose Gators are among the leading contenders for the women’s team title, won the first half of the double, winning the 10,000 meters in a meet record 31:46.09.


Parker Valby, final lap, 10,000m, photo by Paul Merca/PaulMercablogspot

Valby, the reigning NCAA cross country champ and collegiate record holder at this distance (30:50.43), was content to sit behind Taylor Roe of Oklahoma State and Hilda Olemomoi of Alabama before gradually pulling away with seven laps remaining.



Olemomoi also finished under the meet record set by Kansas’ Sharon Looked in 2018 at 32:09.20, running 31:51.89, while Roe was third at 32:17.45.



With the US Olympic Trials upcoming and her 5000 race on Saturday, Valby wore a modified pair of Nike Vaporfly 3 road racing shoes instead of traditional distance track shoes, with a spike plate cemented on the forefoot.



Meet records were also set by Rutgers’ Chloe Timberg in the pole vault, as she cleared 15-5.5 (4.71m) to outlast Riley Felts of Charlotte, who cleared 14-11 (4.55m), and reigning NCAA indoor champion and world championships ninth-place finisher Hana Moll of Washington, who cleared 14-9 (4.50m).



With the Huskies entering the Big Ten Conference next season, Timberg and Moll could be rivals.



Nebraska’s Rhema Otabor smashed the collegiate record in the javelin, sending the spear 210-7 (64.19m) to outlast Texas A&M’s Lianna Davidson, who threw 199-2 (60.70m). It marked the first time in championship meet history that two women threw over 60 meters in the same competition.



For the hometown fans, North Medford HS standout Jaida Ross of Oregon, the collegiate record holder in the shot put at 65-7.75 (20.01m), took care of business, winning with a throw of 64-2.5 (19.57m) in round six.



Her dominance was such that all of her six throws were good enough to take the victory,



Ross told reporters afterward.

, “My mindset the whole time was that I’m not winning,” she said. “Somebody’s going to pop a throw. I need to throw farther. Not once did I see myself winning.”




Maribel Caicedo, 100m hurdles, photo by Paul Merca, PaulMercablogspot

The feel-good moment of yesterday’s competition came in the 100-meter hurdles semifinals, as both Maribel Caicedo from Ecuador and Micaela De Mello of Brazil, competing for Washington State University, as both Cougars advanced to Saturday’s finals.



In the game of conference realignment, musical chairs that resulted in the breakup of what the late Basketball Hall Of Famer Bill Walton called “The Conference of Champions,” Washington State and Oregon State were left out after Washington, Oregon, USC. UCLA bolted for the Big Ten, and Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Arizona State joined the Big 12.

Micaela DeMello, 100m hurdles, by Paul Merca/ Paul Merca Blogspot


Caicedo ran 12.53, her second fastest time ever, while De Mello had the fourth fastest time in qualifying, running a wind-aided 12.71, which would have been under the Olympic standard had it not been wind-aided.



“It’s awesome to have two Cougs in the finals,” said De Mello, who also praised the team culture at WSU, which is led by program director Wayne Phipps and sprint/hurdles coach Gabe Mvumvure.



Caicedo, who attended UTEP before graduating, transferred to Washington State partly because of her relationship with De Mello.