Again and again and again, American Kendell Williams has proven herself the class of the pentathlon among collegians in the United States.
Williams, a junior at the University of Georgia, won her third consecutive National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Indoor Track & Field national title in the event this past weekend in Birmingham, Alabama. Not only did she win her third title in a row, but for the third-consecutive year she established a new collegiate record en route to the title.
Career-best form in the 60-meter hurdles (8.09) and shot put (13.55m) – combined with her typically strong performances in the high jump (1.86m) and long jump (6.35m) – made her the first U.S. collegian and fourth American woman in history to surpass 4700 points.
That performance represents a step up in class for Williams, who improves from her status as the best-of-the-best among collegians into the discussion of potential contenders for the title this Friday at the 16th IAAF World Indoor Championships.
Only the Ukraine’s Anastasiya Mokhnyuk enters with a superior 2016 performance at 4745 points, and only Mokhnyuk, fellow Ukranian Alina Fodorova (4724), and Canadian Brianne Theisen Eaton (4768) enter with higher career bests.
No pentathlete enters these championships so recently removed from combined event competition – most of her competitors logged their seasons’ bests in January or February – which could prove either advantageous or detrimental.
Whether she has managed to maintain her peak fitness for an additional weekend or is weary from her historic efforts on the other side of the United States just seven days prior will largely determine her fate in Portland this weekend. The state of Oregon has treated her well in recent years, having in 2014 won an NCAA Outdoor heptathlon title and an IAAF World Junior 100-meter hurdles crown down the road in Eugene.
It’s the same question a number of men and women are trying to answer as they double back from their collegiate championships. All told, 11 collegians who competed at either the NCAA Division I or NCAA Division II Championships – including six who won national titles – will test their mettle against the World’s best.
Williams’ own University of Georgia teammate Keturah Orji will be accompanying her on Team USA, having been crowned one week ago as the NCAA Division I triple jump winner. Just a sophomore, Orji leapt 14.12m to win the collegiate title handily.
Williams squares off with a pair of her collegiate peers in the pentathlon, with the challenge coming from Canadian Georgia Ellenwood from the University of Wisconsin and Jamaican Salcia Slack from New Mexico Highlands University. Ellenwood finished fourth behind Williams at the NCAA Division I Championships with 4390 points, while Slack won the Division II pentathlon title with 4172 points.
Jamaica’s Chrisann Gordon, a junior at the University of Texas, is representing her home country a week after finishing third at the NCAA Division I Championships at 400 meters in 51.69 and running a leg of the Longhorns’ winning 4×400 relay – a race she’ll likely contest this weekend for Jamaica in addition to her open 400-meter duties, as well.
Slack and Gordon are joined by fellow Jamaicans in the American collegiate system in men’s 400-meter runner Fitzroy Dunkley of Louisiana State University and 60-meter hurdlers Samantha Scarlett of Auburn University and Yanick Hart from the University of Florida. Dunkley was fifth at NCAAs at 400 in 46.46, while Scarlett ultimately finished 10th in her signature event. Hart finished a disappointing 14th in his hurdles competition.
Just behind Dunkley in that 400 meter final was Ghanaian Emmanuel Dasor of the University of Western Kentucky, who was seventh at NCAAs in 46.61. After attempting to compete both at 200 meters and 400 meters in Birmingham, Alabama, a week ago, Dasor will have only the 400 on his schedule this time around.
Croatian Filip Mihaljevic of the University of Virginia will vie for position in the men’s shot put, and is accustomed to dealing with the world’s best. He finished runner-up to 2016 world leader Ryan Crouser of the University of Texas at NCAAs with a throw of 20.47m.
Canada is represented in the men’s sprints by Mobolade Ajomale of the Academy of Art. Ajomole ran 6.57 to win the NCAA Division II title in the event, dethroning a two-time defending national champion in the process. Contention for the final will be a tough task, as he is one of 16 men on the entry list who have run 6.59 or faster this season.
|LIST OF CURRENT COLLEGIANS ENTERED INTO INDIVIDUAL EVENTS|
|Mobolade Ajomole||Canada||Men’s 60 Meters||Academy of Art (Calif.)|
|Emmanuel Dasor||Ghana||Men’s 400 Meters||Western Kentucky University|
|Fitzroy Dunkley||Jamaica||Men’s 400 Meters||Louisiana State University|
|Georgia Ellenwood||Canada||Women’s Pentathlon||University of Wisconsin|
|Tynia Gaither||Bahamas||Women’s 60 Meters||University of Southern California|
|Chrisann Gordon||Jamaica||Women’s 400 Meters||University of Texas|
|Yanick Hart||Jamaica||Men’s 60-Meter Hurdles||University of Florida|
|Filip Mihaljevic||Croatia||Men’s Shot Put||University of Virginia|
|Keturah Orji||United States||Women’s Triple Jump||University of Georgia|
|Samantha Scarlett||Jamaica||Women’s 60-Meter Hurdles||Auburn University|
|Salcia Slack||Jamaica||Women’s Pentathlon||New Mexico Highlands University|
|Kendell Williams||United States||Women’s Pentathlon||University of Georgia|