AMES, Iowa – Texas Tech track and field wrapped the opening day of the Big 12 Indoor Championships Friday evening at Iowa State. The women’s group was excitingly strong, tallying 53 points to hold the lead after the first day of events. The men’s group saw several runner-up performances and sits second with 35 points heading into the second day.
Chinne Okoronkwo successfully defended her Big 12 title in the pole vault, this time doing so with the second-best mark in school history. Okoronkwo, who also won the outdoor title last season, cleared a top height of 14’-3.25” (4.35m) for the win. The senior has stood at the top of the podium in each of her three conference pole vault competitions.
“I try to get them to where they’re jumping well at the end of the season, and I know what kind of competitor she is,” said assistant coach Tom Slagle. “It’s not easy to jump here, and for her to PR and move into a nationals spot really tells you what kind of competitor she is.”
Chloe Wall stood the highest on the podium she has in her career, claiming third with a top clearance of 13’-11.25” (4.25m). It was yet another improvement for the junior, who had previously finished fifth and fourth at conference.
“She’s been solid all year,” Slagle said. “She’s one of the most consistent vaulters in the conference – if not the most consistent vaulter – and you know what she’s going to do week in and week out.”
Seasons Usual secured a trophy for the first time in her collegiate career, winning the weight throw. Usual landed a top throw of 66’-6.5” (20.28m) to win the event, upending defending Big 12 Champion Helene Ingvaldsen of Kansas State. Usual’s mark tied her for the 10th-best in school history, making her the only other Red Raider in the program top-10 along with Kelly Closse, who set all 10 records in 2012.
“What a great kid she is,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Wes Kittley. “She wanted to get herself a ring so bad, and she finally got herself one.”
Ruth Usoro’s Big 12 title came in the long jump – and at the expense of her own school record. Usoro, owner of Tech’s long and triple jump records after just over a month of competing in the Scarlet & Black, jumped 21 feet again, this time landing 21’0.75” (6.42m). It would hold by over __ against the rest of the field, crowning her the Big 12 Champion in her first Division I conference meet.
“I personally don’t think this could happen to a better person,” said Associate Head Coach James Thomas. “She’s the ultimate teammate and gets as much joy out of seeing everyone else do well, but this was her stage and her opportunity. She’s had some great marks and went out there and had three or four jumps that would have won her the competition. It was awesome for her and the team.”
Kaylee Hinton earned the silver in the pentathlon. It was a tremendous effort from the redshirt senior, who was out due to injury for the 2019 indoor and outdoor seasons. Not only did she return and medal, but had a career performance as well. Hinton scored 4,105 points during her five-event competition, good for the most in her career and the third-most in program history. It is the most a Red Raider has ever scored at the Big 12 Championships. A career best came from Tiara Williams, too, who placed sixth with 3,695.
“This was huge for Kaylee,” Thomas said. “When you’re out a little while, it’s tough to get back into competition form. But for her to do this and have a chance at indoor nationals and improve on the highest level she’s ever been indoor is great. I can’t say enough about how much she deserves this opportunity.”
Collegiate bests in hand, Hinton and Williams were far from done for the weekend, along with fellow multis athlete Rose Njoku. The trio competed in the open 60m hurdles, then Hinton and Williams competed again in the open long jump.
Together, the women’s team combined for 53 points on the day – good for the lead.
The men compiled __ points on their first day. The effort was paced by silver-medal worthy performances in the weight throw, long jump and DMR, as well as a bronze finish in pole vault.
The eight points in the throws came courtesy of Gabe Oladipo. Oladipo used his final throw to go 70’-1.75” (21.38m), marking the third-best distance in school history. Oladipo entered already owning the second-best and the program record. He is the only Red Raider in history to throw over 21 meters, doing so three times in his one month competing for Tech.
Justin Hall’s second-place finish came with his jump of 25’-10.25” (7.88m). The senior was in runner-up position through four jumps, but took the lead on his fifth when he landed his second-best jump of the year. He was passed on the very last attempt by Texas’ O’Brien Wasome, who would take the gold. For Hall, the silver medal is his first at a Big 12 meet, and it also contributed eight important points towards the men’s standings.
The track yielded its eight points in the form of the distance medley relay, where the Red Raiders claimed a well-earned silver. Tech’s 10:00.18 was contributed to by Grant LaSelle (1200m), Lavone Brown (400m), Alfred Chawonza (800m) and Takieddine Hedeilli (mile). In the anchor leg, Hedeilli kicked to put the Red Raiders 18-hundredths of going sub-10 minutes. The time originally placed Tech third behind Texas by just four-hundredths of a second. Tech coaches, however, noticed a Longhorn runner ran inside the track and successfully protested. With the Longhorns disqualified, Tech was moved into second and gained a welcome two additional points.
Brandon Bray placed third in a heavily talented pole vault field. Bray, who broke the 27-year old school record last weekend, cleared a top height of 17’-11.75” (5.47m) for the bronze. Bray was clean through the height, then passed as the bar went up over 18 feet. He re-entered at 18’-3.25” (5.57m), but was unable to successfully get over.
One point outside the lead, the women are in a good position with how many qualifiers they gained for Saturday’s finals. It started on the straightaway, where Gabrielle McDonald booked a championship lane in both the 60m and 60m hurdles. Rose Njoku also got through in the hurdles with a season-best 8.45. McDonald will be joined by two more Red Raiders in the 60m: D’Jenne Egharevba and Le-Taija Jackson, the latter of whom ran a career-best 7.47.
Egharevba teamed with Peyton Ricks to take up two more lanes for Tech in the 200m, while Amanda Crawford qualified in the 400m. In longer distance, Tech got all three through in the 600-yard run. This was paced by Damajahnee Birch and her season-best 1:21.68. Lexye Price was behind her, and Sylvia Schulz got through on time while winning her heat.
Points came in distance as well for the women, with Seselia Dala PR’ing at 16:47.86 for a sixth-place finish. The DMR ran 11:48.69 for a seventh-place finish.
The men’s team was led in sprints as well, with the trio of Jacolby Shelton, Ashton O’Conner and Keion Sutton qualifying in the 60m. Derrius Rodgers narrowly missed the 60m final, but bounced back to earn a lane in the 200m final. O’Conner also got into the 200m with Rodgers. In the 400m, Ryan Champlin was strong with a 47.56. In mid-distance, Sven Cepus (800m) and Hedeilli (1000m) qualified for Saturday’s finals.
Tech’s second day in Ames will begin with the heptathlon at 11 a.m., where Red Raiders Kale Mauritsen and Cole Whatley will complete their final three events. The remainder of the meet will start at 12 p.m. with high jump, triple jump and the shot put. The meet will be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ beginning at 1:10 p.m.
Day One Results