From staff reports | Photo by SC Athletics
It was another national title day for the South Carolina track & field team on Saturday as Wadeline Jonathas won the NCAA women’s 400m crown on the final day of the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Led by Jonathas, the Gamecock women left Mike A. Myers Stadium with their best team finish in 13 years.
Jonathas won the title with one of her patented closing stretches, going from fifth on the last turn to a national championship. Her time of 50.60 was .38 seconds clear of the field. It’s the 49th NCAA event title in program history and the second of the meet for the Gamecocks after Quincy Hall won the men’s 400m hurdles championship on Friday.
South Carolina’s Aliyah Abrams (51.13) finished fifth, in front of three other runners in the final heat. Jonathas’ time of 50.60 beat Kentucky’s Chloe Abbott (50.98), Florida’s Sharrika Barnett (51.00) and Arkansas’ Kethlin Campbell (51.09).
The women’s 400m NCAA title is the sixth in South Carolina history. Jonathas is the first Gamecock to win the event since 2007, when two-time Olympic gold medalist Natasha Hastings won the double, claiming the victory indoors and outdoors.
The winning time of 50.60 is the second-best mark in South Carolina history, with only Hastings (49.84) standing in front of Jonathas. For the Gonaives, Haiti, native, it’s the 11th career NCAA title, counting her nine Division III championships from two seasons at UMass Boston and South Carolina’s indoor 4x400m relay crown from this past March.
“Wadeline believes that if you put the work in, you get the return. I am so glad that both of our women’s quarter-milers were great,” Gamecock coach Curtis Frye said. “Aliyah also had an incredible effort; in fact, she ran 50.2 on the second leg of the 4x4. All of our women put in a tremendous effort. Our women finishing 10th is a blessing to us after having a top-seven finish indoors.”
“When the season started off, I had to overcome some things, transferring from DIII to DI,” Jonathas said. “I wasn’t the best coming in, and I still have work to do, but I always have faith. I trust my training and the coaches. I’m trying to do everything they're telling me to do. I was hoping it would pay off, and it did.”
Abrams finished fifth, collecting four big points with a new personal record, 51.13. That’s the fifth-best time in South Carolina history, and the fourth first-team All-America result for Abrams, who finished second in the quarter-mile at the 2019 NCAA Indoor Championships.
The night ended with the 4x400m relay, where the Gamecocks were going for their second NCAA title of the season after climbing to the top of the podium indoors. The Gamecocks fought valiantly, overcoming a trip late in the third leg to finish with the bronze, at 3:26.90. That boosts Stephanie Davis, Abrams, Tatyana Mills and Jonathas to the No. 2 time in school history.
With their 20 points, the South Carolina women finished in a tie for 10th place. It’s the team’s first top-10 finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since a third-place result in 2006.
Arkansas finished as the women's team champion, with 64 points, and Texas Tech took the men's title on Friday, earning 60 points.
Saturday’s excellence caps perhaps the most successful South Carolina track & field season in over a decade. The Gamecock men finished 20th at the NCAA Indoor Championships and 12th at the outdoor meet, their highest national result since 2010. The Carolina women finished seventh at the indoor national meet, their best result at the meet since 2007.