Raven Saunders throws up the Landshark after breaking the collegiate shot put record. (photo by Joshua McCoy)
June 9, 2016
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Eugene, Ore. – Ole Miss sophomore Raven Saunders defended her NCAA outdoor shot put title Thursday, and she did so in the most impressive way.
On her fifth throw from the rain-soaked Hayward Field shot put ring, Saunders launched the 8.8-pound metal ball such that it seemed to stay in the air forever. It flew over the 60-foot mark, then 61 feet, 62 feet, 63 feet. When it finally landed, the 5-foot-5 Rebel who had more than a few beads of rain sitting atop her newly dyed, short-cropped red hair, had shattered a 33-year-old collegiate record with a mark of 19.33 meters, which is 63 feet, 5 inches.
No one was going to top that.
NCAA titles are nothing new to the Charleston, South Carolina, native. She claimed the indoor and outdoor national crowns as a freshman last year at Southern Illinois University. But when this one landed in the brown gravel pit on this particular day, she knew it was special. She threw her hands in the air and celebrated when the display board proved to her and the 9,027 fans in attendance just what she had accomplished.
“Wow, I didn’t even notice,” Saunders said when asked if she knew the record she broke was 33 years old. “One thing my coach always stresses to me: records are going to get broken, but titles are forever. So, I got the win.”
What’s more, she thought she could have thrown better.
“Technically I feel like I set it up OK, but I definitely missed it. Basically on my strike, I threw my head so the shot came off slightly early.”
Some notes about Saunders’ victorious, collegiate record performance:
- Broke the former collegiate record of 18.99m/62-3.75 that was set by Arizona’s Meg Ritchie in 1983
- Bettered the former NCAA meet record of 18.91m/62-0.5 set by Oklahoma’s Tia Brooks in 2013
- Now holds the all-time NCAA indoor and outdoor shot put records
- Her throw ranks her fourth among all women in the world this year
- She ranks No. 7 in U.S. women’s shot put history
- First NCAA shot put champion in school history
- First back-to-back NCAA outdoor women’s shot put champion since Oklahoma’s Brooks in 2012 and 2013
- Topped 60 feet on three of her four legal attempts of the day
Her title is the 15th individual national championship in Ole Miss history, while she becomes the ninth Rebel (and second woman) to win at least one NCAA title. The others are Ralph Spry, George Kersh, Greg Saddler, Savante’ Stringfellow, Antwon Hicks, Barnabas Kirui, Brittney Reese and Sam Kendricks.
“It was really exciting to see her come in here and break the collegiate record at nationals,” said first-year Ole Miss head coach Connie Price-Smith, a four-time Olympic thrower herself. “It doesn’t (usually) happen at nationals, but she’s been doing it and doing it in practices, so we’ve seen it. It’s nice that it actually came out and happened today. She’s been working really hard.”
Price-Smith talked about the significance of a win like this for the Ole Miss program.
“It’s great coming into Ole Miss and being able to have a national champion. For her to come in her first year here and win a championship for the University, I think she’s really excited about it. She threw up that shark fin a few times. She’s just proud to be a Rebel, and I’m proud to have her here with me.”
The season is not quite over for the Ole Miss sophomore, as she will be back in Eugene to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials next month. Saunders talked about what this meet does for her in preparation for that one.
“Basically try to do the best that I possibly can every meet,” Saunders explained. “This was a great setup for going into a really high intensity championship meet. So it really sets me up for the Olympic Trials.”
The Rebels’ quartet of sophomore Nicole Henderson, sophomore Shannon Ray, junior Breanna Tate and senior Khadijah Suleman placed fifth in their heat and 16th overall in the 4x100-meter relay in 44.56. By placing 16th, each of the four women will earn second team All-America distinction.
That makes Henderson, Ray and Suleman two-time All-Americans in their Ole Miss careers. They teamed up with Jhorden Hunter to claim seventh place in the 4x100-meter relay at last year’s national championships.
In her first appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, sophomore Lindsey Murray tied for 15th with a clearance at 4.05m/13-3.5. She too will claim second team All-America status.
Through the first two days of the championships, the Ole Miss men and women have combined for two first team All-Americans (Saunders, Dempsey McGuigan), six second team All-Americans (Henderson, Ray, Tate, Suleman, Murray, Holland Sherrer) and three more finalists for Friday’s competition (Robert Domanic, Craig Engels, MJ Erb).
The Rebels are currently tied for sixth in the women’s team standings (10 points), and tied for 39th in the men’s team standings (1 point).
How to watch on Friday:
- 2:30-10 p.m. CT – ESPN3/WatchESPN
- 7:30-10 p.m. CT – ESPN
How the Rebels will line up on Friday:
7:00 p.m. CT – M High Jump – Branden Greene
7:42 p.m. CT – M 1500m Final – Robert Domanic, Craig Engels
7:54 p.m. CT – M 3000m Steeple Final – MJ Erb
9:25 p.m. CT – M 5000m Final – Ryan Walling
For more information on Ole Miss Track & Field, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissTrack, as well as Facebook and Instagram.
4x100 Meter Relay Semifinals
16. Ole Miss (Henderson, Ray, B. Tate, Suleman) – 44.56
T15. Lindsey Murray – 4.05m/13-3.5
1. Raven Saunders – 19.33m/63-5 (CR) (MR) (SR) (10 points)