Shooting for victory: Track and field heads to NCAA Championships

Cutting edge · All-American hurdler Anna Cockrell (left) seeks to add a championship to her accolades as a Trojan. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan)

After its recent success in the NCAA West Preliminary Championships, the USC track and field program will send 18 athletes to the NCAA Championships Wednesday in Austin, Texas.

The Trojans entered the postseason as one of the strongest overall in the nation. In the Pac-12 Championships, the women’s team came away with first place, while the men took fifth.

The men’s team is currently ranked No. 9 in the nation and will field eight athletes, including Ayden Owens for decathlon, who snatched the Male Pac-12 Freshman of the Year distinction this year. He was the only male Trojan to earn a Pac-12 award. At 6-foot-2-inches, Owens became the Gatorade Pennsylvania Men’s Track and Field Athlete of the Year during his senior year of high school. 

In his first season as a Trojan, Owens posted unprecedented numbers. He ran the 100-meter dash in 10.43 seconds, completed the 110-meter hurdle in 13.76 seconds, and achieved a 24-foot-8-inch long jump, all top five marks for USC. The men’s team hopes Owen continues his success and bring home a championship win for the program.

Other athletes competing include freshman Eric Allen Jr. for the 200-meter sprint, sophomores Cameron Samuel for hurdles and Earnest Sears III for the high jump; junior Isaiah Jewett for the 800-meter sprint; redshirt juniors Nathan Bultman with the hammer throw and Matthew Katnik for shot put; and senior Marquis Morris with the 110 hurdles.

The No. 2 women’s team will send ten athletes to this week’s championship, including junior Anna Cockrell for the 100- and 400-meter hurdles. Cockrell won the 200-meter title and placed second for the 400-meter hurdles at last year’s NCAA Championships.

Cockrell has been particularly valuable for the women’s team, acting as its anchor throughout the 15-meet-long regular season. However, she admits that her career as a Trojan has not always been easy.

“My body felt like it was in a car accident when I first started training at USC,” Cockrell told USC Athletics.

However, it was not long before Cockrell established herself as a force to be reckoned with. She was on the 4×400 team that won in a miraculous comeback during the 2018 NCAA Championships. 

Cockrell credits coach Caryl Smith Gilbert for helping her overcome her hamstring injury during the last indoor season, allowing her to improve her performance both physically and mentally upon return.

“Coach Caryl has pushed me hard from the moment I stepped on campus and she recognizes potential in people to achieve their goals.” Cockrell said. “She knew I could get through the injury and that kept me going.”

Cockrell boasts a number of accolades outside of track. She spoke at USC’s student-athlete graduation in May and is preparing to begin her graduate studies in Public Policy.

“I’m ready and I’m tired of second place,” Cockrell said regarding this season’s championships. “I’ve been an All-American every year I’ve been here and that’s something I’m proud of, but I’m ready for an individual championship.”

Other women competing in the NCAA Championships include freshmen Bailey Lear with the 4×400 relay and Lanae-Tava Thomas with the 100 and 200 sprints; sophomores Chanel Brissett for the 100 hurdles,  Kaelin Roberts as an alternate for the 4×400; and TeeTee Terry with the 100 and 200 sprints; juniors Kyra Constantine for the 400 sprint and Mecca McGlaston as an alternate for the 4×100 and 4×400 relays; redshirt junior Angie Annelus for the 100 and 200 sprints; and senior Margaux Jones with the long jump.

Both the men’s and women’s teams have come a long way and both hope to add a coveted championship banner when all is done. 

The NCAA Championships will be held Wednesday through Saturday in Austin, Texas.