Eugene, Ore. – Senior Miles Ukaoma became the Huskers’ 78th National Champion at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field on Friday. The senior from Maize, Kan., captured the NCAA title in the 400-meter hurdles in front of 10,104 fans, capping a stunning Husker career.
As a three-time Big Ten Champion and three-time All-American, Ukaoma entered the Championships seeded first in the nation, but looked to capture a title he hadn’t yet reached as a Husker against the best competition in the nation. Ukaoma came out of the blocks strong and cruised through the first 300 meters ahead of Kansas’ Michael Stigler, who has battled Ukaoma at the top of the national standings all year. He held on through the final 100 meters, crossing the finish line in 49.23, matching his lifetime-best mark.
“You always prepare to peak this time of year,” Ukaoma said. “I was able to get it right and peak at the national meet. I was just trying to feel how Stigler was going to run, just run off of him and stay close to him and try to out-kick him at the end. We were getting a lot of wind, I felt like I was being pushed around, but you don’t really think about that when you’re trying to run. It’s awesome just to run with him (Stigler). He’s a great guy, a great competitor. I love running against strong guys. I would rather run 48 low and lose than 50 seconds and win. I just like to compete.”
Ukaoma gave credit to his teammates for pushing him in his training all season. Although Ukaoma was the only Husker to make the finals, NU advanced four individual 400-meter hurdle runners to the NCAA Championships in Eugene.
“That’s partially why I was able to run the time I ran today, because of all the guys we have at Nebraska and all the 400-meter hurdlers we have there,” he said. “Billy Maxwell runs a great program. He really prepares his runners to perform well at these bigger meets.”
With the title, Ukaoma becomes Nebraska's 19th men's outdoor national champion and the Huskers’ first 400-meter hurdle champion. The last Husker to win a national title on the men's side was 2012 discus champion Chad Wright, and the last Husker to secure an outdoor national title on the track was Dmitrijs Milkevics in the 800 meters in 2005.
Chad Wright closed his Husker career on Friday with a fourth-place finish in the men’s discus. The senior from Kingston, Jamaica, finished with a throw of 203-2 (61.93) that came on his final attempt of the competition.
Junior Ellie Ewere jumped her way to a fifth-place finish in the women’s triple, en route to earning the first All-America honors of her career. She tallied a leap of 43-7 ¼ (13.29) on her fifth attempt of the competition to secure the top-five finish for NU.
Anne Martin closed her Husker career with a 13th-place finish in the heptathlon, posting 5,465 points. She opened the second day of competition with a leap of 18-7 ¼ (5.67) in the long jump before a personal-best throw of 137-7 (41.94) in the javelin. Martin finished with a season-best time of 2:21.35 in the 800 meters.
In the team standings, the Husker men enter the final day in 12th with 12 points, while the women are seventh with 16 points.
The Huskers will close the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships tomorrow as Annie Jackson and Carlie Pinkelman will compete in the women’s shot put and the men’s 4x400-meter relay will take to the track in the finals.
Friday’s Finals Finishes
Miles Ukaoma- 400h- 1st (49.23)
Chad Wright- Discus- 4th (203-2)
Ellie Ewere- Triple Jump- 5th (43-7 1/4)
Anne Martin- Heptathlon- 13th (4,565)