Led by the outstanding performances of sprinters Bryshon Nellum and Aaron Brown, the USC men’s track and field team placed fifth with its most points since 1977 at the 2013 NCAA Track and Field Championships, hosted by Oregon on June 8. The USC women’s team would tie for 21st in the team scoring after their 4×100 meter relay team places seventh to pocket the team 12 points.
On a lighter note, USC director of Track and Field Ron Allice announced his retirement following the meet, ending his successful 19-year run at the helm of the USC track and field program. His retirement is effective at the end of this month.
“It’s a good way to go out,” Allice said. “As I tell people all the time, in coaching, you have to figure out when it looks like you’re leading a parade not being chased [out] by a mob. I can’t say enough about the staff. I can’t say enough about the athletes. They performed. Everybody took care of business and that’s what you come here to do.”
Prior to the final day of competition, Nellum won the 400, senior Reggie Wyatt won the 400 hurdles, and Brown took fifth in the 100 to put USC tied with Texas for first (32 points) in the team competition going into the last day. This was quite the feat as the Trojans had five men entered in just seven events, while favorites like Texas A&M and Arkansas had athletes participating in 20 events. This small but mighty Trojan team brought back memories of the 1943 NCAA title team, which won the championship with only four athletes.
“It was a really special day for us all across the board,” Allice said. “I don’t think anyone else lit it up like us. We’ve been on fire. I’m walking about three feet off the ground right now. This is such a tough meet, and to do what we are doing is really special.”
All USC runners came out at their best, as each athlete ran a personal best in their races. Wyatt was the first Trojan male to do so, as he won the men’s 400 IH NCAA title with a personal record of 48.58 seconds With the win, Wyatt moved from fifth to third on USC’s all-time list in the event and became the first Trojan to win the event since two-time Olympic gold medalist Felix Sanchez won in 2000.
“It was my last collegiate race and I wanted to leave it all on the track,” Wyatt said. “I knew this was it. I felt like this was for all the marbles, what I’ve been training for my whole career.”
Next, Brown would go on to a personal record of 10.01 in the men’s 100 final. Brown’s 10.01 time was the fastest-ever in the event by a Trojan at the NCAA championships and he became the first USC runner to score in the 100 dash since Ahmad Rashad placed second in 2009.
Finally, Nellum gave Hayward Field a treat, winning the men’s 400 dash with a personal record of 44.73. Nellum’s time was the fourth-fastest ever by a Trojan in the finals.
“The race felt good,” Nellum said. “I controlled the first 200, and I made my move and came home. Coming off the curve coming home, I used my form and finished strong. I just had to run my own race, stay comfortable and finish strong. It’s a beautiful feeling. This was one of my goals and the reason I came back for my sixth year — to win a national championship. I was able to come back and win which is just what I came back for.”
In the final event of his college career, Nellum was competing to become only the third person ever to win both the men’s 200 and 400 dashes, but unfortunately, placed third with a wind-aided time of 20.27.
“For my college career, it painted a perfect picture,” Nellum said. “Coming from all my injuries and having that long journey, this was a happy ending, winning the national title in the 400 and finishing top three in the 200. Overall I’ve had a wonderful career at SC.”
Brown ran alongside Nellum in the 200 dash and placed fifth, making him and Nellum the first pair of Trojans to score in the event in the same season since 1978.
“I feel blessed, honestly,” Brown said. “I left it all on the line just like I wanted to. After all four races I felt good about all of them. Bryshon and I came out here and got top five. Can’t complain at all. Our team had five people, while A&M and Florida had 15 or 20. We’re kind of like 300 competing against this huge number of people and we did our best.”
With the completion of the NCAA championships, the USC track and field program will now enter the offseason and commence its search for a new director.