The women’s portion of the NCAA track & field championships got off to a less-than-ordinary start. A thunderstorm rolled through Austin in the hours leading up to the start time, forcing delays in several events. The rain cleared out soon after. The humidity compounded with the preexisting Texas heat set the stage for races to begin.
The first race on the schedule was a team event — the 4x100-meter. With a perfectly balanced team — two seniors and two freshmen — Texas found its stride from the fire of the gun. The Longhorns finished with the second-fastest time in school history and qualified for the weekend final. Saturday did not go their way, however. Texas finished eighth, not reflecting its 42.84 second performance put forth two days prior.
The weekend’s focus shifted to seniors Teahna Daniels and Ashtin Zamzow making their final collegiate appearance Saturday.
Daniels, who swept her preliminary events, competed in all three Longhorn events on Saturday.
“Even though I might not be coming in as the favorite right now, I’m gunning for the win,” Daniels said prior to the event. “It’s anybody’s race.”
Her signature race, the 100-meter, was first on the docket for the senior. Daniels stormed out of the block, pounding her feet on the asphalt of lane five trying to keep pace with the leader. It was one of her better races; Daniels finished 0.01 seconds off her personal best. However, even her best wouldn’t have been enough. LSU freshman Sha’Carri Richardson brought Mike A. Myers stadium to its feet as she finished the race in 10.75 seconds, a collegiate record.
“Not at all,” said Richardson when asked if she expected to run as fast as she did. “I never give myself a time. If you give yourself a goal, you limit yourself. As long as you expect greatness out of yourself … then you can achieve even more.”
Along with Daniels saying goodbye to the burnt orange, Zamzow also said farewell. For many athletes, going out on their own terms is a pipe dream. Zamzow was able to do so. She was crowned the heptathlon national champion and she needed every event to win the title.
“It was a dream I couldn’t have thought I would’ve lived,” Zamzow said. “It was out of this world … I can’t explain it.”
Her first place finish in the Javelin toss put her over the edge against Texas A&M’s Tyra Gittens.
I was in a daze for the first lap,” Zamzow said. “Then the pain set and the two days set in and I was like, ‘Just finish.’ I kept fighting. I finally got my big throw, passed her and held her off with the (800-meter).”
For both seniors, one a champion, this weekend was a swan song. Despite the year culminating in their home stadium, it didn’t set in during the moment.
“It still really hasn’t set in that I’m done with college yet,” Daniels said. “I finished my best season yet at Texas, so I’m excited.”
With two of the team’s stars lost to graduation, the stage is set for the next wave of Longhorns to fill their shoes.