Mixed results from NCAA track and field championships

Earnest Sear III jumps over a bar at a track event in Eugene, Oregon.
Earnest Sears III tied for tenth in the high job, clearing 7-0.50. The graduate student opened the 2021 season with a second place finish at the Florida Relays with a clearance of 7-3.75. (Photo courtesy of USC Athletics)

USC Track & Field athletes hung up their cleats and can now catch their breath after finishing their seasons at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Saturday. The men’s team tied with Washington for 12th place and the women’s at 30th, wrapping up the 2021-2022 USC athletic calendar.

The men’s 4x100m relay team achieved a school record en route to clinching the national title. Graduate student Kasaun James, senior Brendon Stewart, sophomore Ashton Allen and sophomore Johnnie Blockburger won the event title and secured a school-record time of 38.49. Their time broke a 2015 record set by a team featuring USC football star Adoree Jackson, now a cornerback for the New York Giants. The runners earned first-team All-American honors with their performance.

“We were thinking why not us?” said Stewart in an interview with USC Athletics. “No one really expected us to win. Everybody was ranked ahead of us. We trusted our training, we trusted each other, we ran for Davonte (Burnett who was injured at Pac-12s), we came here ready to go to war.”

The 4x100m relay was USC’s only first place finish of the championships. The victory scored 10 points for the men’s team, accounting for half of its total points scored in the week. 

The 4x400m relay team secured the second-fastest time in school history, running the event in 2:59.98 and earning 8 points for USC. The team finished second in the event behind Florida, which won the NCAA Outdoor Championships for both men and women. Graduate student Zach Shinnick and junior Nicholas Ramey joined Blockburger and James on the team, finishing just 0.98 seconds behind the school-record set in 2018.

Shinnick, following the completion of his last collegiate race, reflected on his career at USC. 

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my five years, but if I could go back to [being] a high school senior, I wouldn’t change anything,” Shinnick said. “I’d still come to USC regardless of the ups and downs just because the ups have been some of the best moments of my life.”

Rounding out the scoring for the men’s team was senior Tade Ojora and sophomore Trey Knight. Ojora placed eighth in the 110m hurdles, earning a point for USC. Knight added another, finishing in eighth place in the hammer throw, hurling the 16-pound hammer 70.73 meters. 

All 8 points for the women’s track & field team came from sophomore Jasmine Jones, who placed second on the final day of the tournament in the women’s 100m hurdles. Jones’ performance continued USC’s success in the event, as the sophomore became the third consecutive Trojan to finish in the top two of the 100m hurdles with a time of 12.66 seconds, just 0.09 seconds behind LSU’s Alia Armstrong. 

“Being the last one to race for our team this week, it really just meant a lot to bring the trophy home, bring the gold home, bring whatever I could home, just leave it on the track and do the best I could, which I did,” Jones said in an interview with USC Athletics. “I feel really blessed to have made it to the end of this race honestly, and to place second is honestly a dream come true.”

Jones’ performance beat her previous personal best time, which she had set just days before in the semifinal. Her semifinal time of 12.72 moved her from sixth to fourth on USC’s all-time leaderboard. Freshman Jalaysiya Smith placed fourth in the same event with a personal record of 13.05, finishing best among freshmen who had participated in the NCAA Championships this summer. 

“For me, it’s just an unbelievable year, and I’m just blessed and grateful for it,” James said.