BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Texas Tech wrapped up competition at the NCAA Indoor Championships Saturday, finishing tied for sixth on the men’s side with a total 24 points, and tied for 15thon the women’s with 12 points.
“We did a good job on Saturday with two national champions and a runner-up,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross country Wes Kittley. “We failed to fill up lanes with our preliminaries Friday, and that did not help us. I’m proud of those that competed Saturday and made it to the podium.”
Beginning the day on top of the podium was Zarriea Willis, who in her third trip to indoor nationals claimed a championship for the first time in her career. She topped at a near-PR 6’-1.5” (1.87m). With the title, she becomes the first women’s high jumper to win a title at Tech, which thanks to the likes of Jacorian Duffield, Bradley Adkins and Trey Culver has become known as an outstanding high jump university. Associate head coach James Thomas, who has seen Willis’ growth over the last four years, spoke on how much it means to have one of his female competitors take home the gold.
“Just to see her progress over these last four years and come back to win a national title her senior year is special,” Thomas said. “I’ve been tough on Zarriea for four years. I’ve really tried to push her to do some things she didn’t think she could do, and she took it like a champ. I’ve coached her unlike a lot of athletes I’ve had and she’s turned into one of the most consistent high jumpers in the country.”
Willis has also competed at three outdoor championships, and despite a pair of First Team All-American performances, she had yet to come away the last women standing.
Divine Oduduru was Tech’s lone two-finals qualifier after Friday’s events, scheduled to run the 60m and 200m on Saturday. He defended his outdoor 200m title with another victory this year, going 20.49 to win it. He scored two points in the 60m with a 6.62. Though it was six-hundredths of a second faster than his second-place finish last March, it was worthy of seventh this year.
Odaine Lewis, competing in his first indoor championship, took silver in the triple jump with a top leap of 54’-7.5” (16.65m) – missing a personal best by just three inches.
Chinne Okoronkwo doubled in the triple jump and pole vault, and became the first to earn All-America status in both events at the same championship meet. In the triple, she went 42’-11.75” (13.10m) to place eighth. She also placed eighth in the pole vault after topping out at 13’-11.75” (4.26m).
Lewis and Okoronkwo were the lone Red Raiders to score in the same event for both genders.
Axel Hubert rounded out his competition in the heptathlon, finishing in 15thplace. The freshman began with an 8.32 in the 60m hurdles for 903 points, making it his highest-scoring event of the weekend. The pole vault yielded 778 points when he topped at 14’-11.5” (4.56m). He ran the 1000m in 2:53.83, which solidified his finishing in 15th.