After day one, Ole Miss is third in the men’s team standings with 12 points and fifth in the women’s team standings with 11.
As she has so often in the past, Saunders saved her biggest heroics for the end of the shot put competition.
After an outstanding series on her first five throws (which included a 19.20m/63-0 on her fourth attempt), Saunders uncorked the biggest throw of her life on her final attempt with a massive 19.56m/64-2.25. Some notes on that throw:
Broke her own indoor collegiate record of 19.23m/63-1.25 from last year
No. 1 throw in the world this year
Moves her up to No. 4 in indoor history among U.S. women
NCAA indoor meet record
Texas A&M facility record
Farther than her outdoor collegiate record of 19.33m/63-5
“I knew throughout the season leading up to this meet, I knew there was a big throw coming,” Saunders said. “I knew it was just a matter of just setting up my technique and going after it.
“Coming into the last throw, I had nothing to lose so I just went after it.”
Saunders already held the indoor and outdoor shot put collegiate records and now owns the indoor and outdoor NCAA meet records. The Charleston, South Carolina, native won her fourth career NCAA title, avenging her 12th-place showing at last year’s NCAA indoor meet. She claims the second NCAA indoor championship by any Ole Miss woman, joining Brittney Reese, who won the 2008 long jump title.
Known to many as simply “The Hulk,” Saunders achieved the best shot put series by any woman in NCAA history - 18.31, 17.98, 18.04, 19.20, 18.10, 19.56. In addition to her collegiate record, her heave of 19.20 meters is fourth-best in NCAA history.
“I tell everybody, I don’t know what her ceiling is,” said head coach Connie Price-Smith of Saunders. “So it’s fun every time she exceeds her best mark, because it just proves that I really don’t know where it’s going to stop. It’s really special.”
Fellow junior Janeah Stewart competed in her first NCAA meet and came away with an eighth-place performance in the shot put with a throw of 17.23m/56-6.5. The top eight finishers in each event earn first team All-America honors.
“Raven came in and had a great performance. She set a goal for herself this week and got really close to it,” Price-Smith said. “It was fun to see her come in and take command and control it the whole way through. Janeah did a great job to make the final her first time here.”
The last event of the night was also the most exciting for the Ole Miss men, who followed last year’s third-place result in the distance medley relay with a title in 2017. It’s the first national title in any relay event – men’s or women’s, indoor or outdoor – in Ole Miss history. And it’s the school’s first NCAA indoor men’s title since Antwon Hicks won the 60-meter hurdles in 2005.
Engels led off in the 1200-meter leg and sprinted to the front of the pack over the final 100 meters to hand off to freshman walk-on DeRay for the 400-meter leg. DeRay held his own and gave the baton to Tobin for the 800-meter leg. Tobin went from about sixth to second by the time he turned it over to anchor leg Domanic. The senior ran second for most of the 1600-meter leg before turning on the jets over the final 200 meters to storm away with the victory in 9:31.32, the second-best time in school history.
“We knew winning the distance medley at NCAA was a possibility last year at Penn State in the DMR when the first three legs we were destroying everybody, but we lost because Sean Tobin over here wasn't in great shape,” Domanic explained. “However, we knew when he was 100 percent we had something special.”
“Gosh, they were phenomenal,” Price-Smith added. “Each leg ran great. It was a good team effort there, and they looked great doing it. I’m happy for them that they get to experience this, because it really is an awesome feeling and something they’ll cherish forever.”
Engels, Tobin and Domanic were on last year’s squad that earned first team All-America accolades, while DeRay makes first team All-America on his first try.
Senior MJ Erb came in as the No. 7 seed in the men’s 5000 meters, and that’s exactly where he finished in the race Friday night, earning two more points for Ole Miss. He finished with a time of 13:51.73. It’s the second straight year for Ole Miss to place seventh in the event, as Ryan Walling pulled the feat a season ago.
Engels and Ryan Manahan took part in the 800-meter prelims earlier in the evening. Manahan ran 1:48.79 for 11th place, while Engels took 14th in 1:49.26. Second team All-America honors go to the ninth through 16th-place finishers in each event.
In his NCAA meet debut, junior Brian Williams placed 14th in the men’s shot put, throwing a distance of 17.88m/58-8.
The men are done scoring for the meet, but the women have some more big opportunities on Saturday. Stewart and Saunders are the No. 1 and No. 8 seeds in the weight throw, respectively. Junior Lindsey Murray is the No. 16 seed in the pole vault and is making her third straight appearance at NCAA Indoors.
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